This is the memoir of an Austrian boy growing up during World War II. He is a gentle soul surrounded by a loving family. From early on he reads voraciously creating a world for himself that shelters him from reality. His dream is to move to Africa and raise sheep or grow coffee.
When his father gets drafted and bombs start falling on Austria, his family takes refuge in the country. There the boy witnesses never-ending treks of refugees, soldiers moving in all directions, and finally American troops fighting their way in ahead of the Russians. He scavenges for edibles in the woods, stands in line for bread and tries out his school English on the GI's now occupying this part of Austria.
After months in exile the family finally moves back into their own house. The boy plays dangerous games with surplus munitions and helps stave off hunger by collecting harvest leftovers. When word arrives that his father was killed in action, his family falls apart. His mother trains to become a midwife, his siblings are put into the care of an aunt, and he - sponsored by an uncle - finds normalcy in boarding school.