Posted in the South Pacific Santa Irene Island against his wishes, Canadian Second Secretary Bill Burridge is mistaken as a CIA agent and kidnapped by the rebellious group Kartouf. Hanging on to life by a thin thread, Bill survives the infamous tortures of the Kartouf, by escaping into flash backs of his childhood and memories of his life in Ottawa. He struggles to win an ongoing battle within himself. He is moved from his "hole" to a village where government soldiers raided the village, killing everyone in sight and "rescuing" Bill. Back home in Ottawa, Bill loses 'his' battle and attempts to take his life.
The themes of this novel were pain, terrorism, love and misunderstanding. Bill Burridge experienced the torture of the Kartouf, who were trying to force him to admit that he was an agent dealing with the CIA. Not only did this pain torture him physically, but mentally as well.
He then realized that this fate was a fate worse than death. Overall the pain that Bill experience in the story, his love for his family kept him alive and solid till the very end. He kept feeling responsible for them even when he was captured. In the end Bill understands why the Kartouf felt the need to kidnapping him. They wanted to bring international attention to the brutalities that the common folk suffer in the hands of the dictator government.