At age 8, Samia lives to run. Her best friend, Ali, pushes her to achieve her goals. Samia’s running is the bright spot in their tumultuous life in Somalia. She is determined to represent her country in the Olympic Games, just like her hero, Mo Farah. Despite the lack of resources, despite the war and despite all of the restrictions imposed on Somali women, Samia becomes a world class runner. As a teenager, she is selected to represent her country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She finishes last at the Games, but the sight of the small woman in modest clothes running in the dust of athletes like Veronica Campbell-Brown brings the Olympic stadium to its feet, and she sets her sights on the 2012 Olympics. Conditions in Somalia have deteriorated and Samia must get to London on her own. To do so, she is forced to make the arduous migrant journey across Africa and the Mediterranean.
When Signora A first enters the narrator’s home, his wife, Nora, is experiencing a difficult pregnancy. First as their maid and nanny, then their confidante, this older woman begins to help her employers negotiate married life, quickly becoming the glue in their small household. She is the steady, maternal influence for both husband and wife, and their son, Emanuele, whom she protects from his parents’ expectations and disappointments. But the family’s delicate fabric comes undone when Signora A is diagnosed with cancer.
A platoon of young men and one female soldier leaves Italy for one of the most dangerous places on earth: Forward Operating Base (FOB) in the Gulistan district of Afghanistan. Each member in the platoon manages the toxic mix of boredom and fear that is life at the FOB in his own way. But when a much-debated mission goes devastatingly awry, the soldiers find their lives changed in an instant.