From the late 1940s, when they are upper-middle class boys in a small Irish town, Sean and Liam share a complex and powerful bond of love and rivalry. They long for the same women. First Liam's mother, the folden, tragic Russian emigree, Elizabeth Kenneally, who destroys herself in her inability to make peace with her new land. Then, as young men at University together in Dublin, their burgeoning sexuality leads Sean and Liam to a deeper, almost mystical level of involvement. They are friends first with Christine, rich, vulnerable, and desperate for affection, and her friend Sarah. Sarah the glamorous, the spoiled, the intoxicating, whose body becomes a seductive bridge between Liam and Sean that they ultimately cross with painful and profound consequences for all of them.