As a young girl in Budapest in the 1930s, Marika dreams of growing up to be a scientist or maybe an explorer. An older brother who never tells her anything, a beloved rag doll, an embarrassing mother, school, friends--Marika's life revolves around ordinary things until her father decides to build a wall in their home, creating separate living quarters for himself. Why can't they live together, like her friend Zsofi's family?
Then, when Marika is fifteen, the Germans occupy Budapest, and war surrounds her. Her ordinary life disintegrates as her friends and family separate. Forced into hiding, Marika begins to understand the fragility and strength of the bonds among family and friends, and gradually she comes to terms with her shattered world.