When the killing starts in Dhaka, the villagers know the army from West Pakistan will soon be in their area, but unlike the other young men, and his beloved step-sister Moni Banu, Kamal cannot join the resistance. Born with a hole for a mouth, most people, except Abbas Miah, the teacher who adopts him, his friends and Moni Banu, regard him as the village idiot.
With Abbas Miah, Kamal embarks on a Noah’s ark journey, with the motley survivors of the massacre that inevitable comes, to find refuge in the distant floodplanis until the war is over. Along with a bombastic old actor, the village mullah, the village cut-throat, two Hindu boatmen, a foul-mouthed old women, and a pious Islamist, who might just be a collaborator, Kamal discovers that there can be no escape from the war and the issues it raises.
As our guide to the painful emergence of the new nation of Bangladesh, Kamal is forced both to observe the face of evil, the complexity of betrayal, and look within to discover whether he has the capacity for true community, whether he can follow the injunction:
“If someone knocks on your door, you don’t ask who it is. You don’t even look at their face. You just do everything you can for them.”