In his mesmerising first novel, the internationally celebrated short-story writer Miroslav Penkov spins the intriguing tale of an American student who returns to Bulgaria, the country he left as a child. His mission is to track down his grandfather and to find out why he suddenly cut off all contact with the family three years before.
The trail leads him to a remote village on the border with Turkey, a stone's throw away from Greece, high up in the Strandja Mountains - a place of pagan mysteries and black storks nesting in giant oaks; a place where every spring, possessed by Christian saints, men and women dance barefoot across live coals in search of rebirth.
Here in the mountains, he is drawn by his grandfather into a maze of half-truths. And here, he falls in love with an unobtainable Muslim girl. Old ghosts come back to life and forgotten conflicts blaze anew until the past finally yields up its plangent secrets.