1956: Amara, a young Italian journalist, is sent to report on the growing political divide between East and West in post-war central Europe. She also has a more personal mission: to find out what happened to Emanuele, her soul mate from before the war when both were children in Florence. Emanuele and his family were Jews transported by the Nazis from wartime Vienna, but not before he had sent Amara a long series of letters she still carries with her. Her quest now takes her on long train journeys. She visits the holocaust museum at Auschwitz, and Budapest, where she is caught up in the tumultuous events of the October rising against the Soviet Union. Amara is helped by chance travel companions, notably Hans, part Austrian and half-Jewish, who works as a surrogate father at weddings for brides orphaned in the war, and Hovath, an elderly Hungarian captured by the Russians after forced service with the German army outside Stalingrad in 1942. Along the way she meets many other survivors, each with their own story to tell, and ponders the troubled existence of her own parents in the oppressive world of Mussolini's Italy. But did Emanuele survive the war or, like so many other Viennese Jews, did he die in Auschwitz or a ghetto in Poland?