Penelope Whitaker sets off for Syria as a relief worker, leaving behind her apathetic suburban life in search of meaning. But when a bombing in Aleppo derails her plans, she finds herself stuck in Istanbul. There, beneath all its beauty, she encounters untold suffering, through the eyes of Ameer, the forgotten Syrian boy, and Mr. Ghanzali, a cheerful professor turned peddler.
When she returns home, only to discover a Trump sign on her father’s lawn, old wounds around race, family, and politics resurface. Throughout her journey, Penelope learns to see people as they are rather than as she expects them to be.