Salim has always known that his father does not want him. Living with his parents and his adored Uncle Amir in a house full of secrets, he is a bookish child, a dreamer haunted by night terrors. It is the 1970s and Zanzibar is changing. Tourists arrive, the island’s white sands obscuring the memory of recent conflict–the longed-for independence from British colonialism swiftly followed by bloody revolution. When his father moves out, retreating into disheveled introspection, Salim is confused and ashamed. His mother does not discuss the change, nor does she explain her absences with a strange man; silence is layered on silence.
When glamorous Uncle Amir, now a senior diplomat, offers Salim an escape, the lonely teenager travels to London for college. But nothing has prepared him for the biting cold and seething crowds of this hostile city. Struggling to find a foothold, and to understand the darkness at the heart of his family, he must face devastating truths about those closest to him–and about love, sex, and power.