Thomas Cassidy arrives in Belfast in l978 as a young, idealistic American journalist. He is profoundly moved by the stories he hears from many people, young and old, whose lives were upended by their experiences. These encounters stimulate him to develop an enhanced sense of professional identity and purpose. He meets Saoirse Kelly, an attractive barmaid who kws that her true mission in life is to help traumatised and disadvantaged children. Though tied to Belfast by family obligations she dreams of escape, of gaining her freedom and becoming professionally qualified. Thomas and Saoirse develop an intense relationship but, restrained by their experiences, circumstances and traumas, it takes them 20 years to find true happiness together - until the Troubles intervene again. Nico Swaan is a Dutch-Canadian writer who has been intrigued and puzzled all his life by the pain people inflict upon themselves and upon others. His professional life focused on helping people to increase personal awareness and enhance their interpersonal skills.