During her junior-year-abroad in Senegal, idealistic Beth Barton meets charismatic sculptor Malik Ndour and, without her parents’ knowledge, marries him. The couple’s arrival at her home near Portland, Maine, in early 2001, throws the parents’ marriage into turmoil, and soon puts stress on the newlyweds’ relationship as well. As a result of mounting domestic and racial tensions, the broader clash of African and Western cultures, and the attack of 9/11, Malik grows increasingly estranged and falls prey to a jihadist recruiter. Late one December night, on Portland’s freezing, fogbound docks, he sets out on his first deadly assignment.
The ensuing crisis throws further light on the mindset of this particular terrorist, as well as on the diverse attitudes of his intimates toward him.