In this semi-autobiographical novel, Head tracks the protagonist Elizabeth's struggle to emerge from the oppressive social situation in which she finds herself, and from the nightmares and hallucinations that torment her. Elizabeth, like the author, was conceived in an out-of-wedlock union between a black man and a white woman of social standing - a union outlawed by her country of birth, South Africa. Elizabeth leaves South Africa with her young son to live in Botswana, a country that has escaped some of the worst evils of colonial domination. But in rural Botswana she is once again faced with a constricting social system as the villagers are suspicious of her urban ways and frown upon her individualistic behavior. They also bear her ill will on racial grounds because she is light skinned like the Bushmen' who are a despised tribe there. Elizabeth suffers not only social isolation but intellectual deprivation as well. One of the few people with whom she can converse as an intellectual equal is the American Peace Corps volunteer, Tom. During the four years in which Elizabeth is plagued by mental, social and economic challenges, it is Tom, and her own love for and obligation to her young son that help her to survive this ordeal.