Lila and Elena (introduced in MY BRILLIANT FRIEND) are now in their 20s. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila, while Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. They share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the center of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women, paying the cruel price that this passage exacts.
Growing up on the tough streets of Naples in the 1950s, friends Elena and Lila learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, and as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change.