Author(s): Patricia Tyrrell
An eccentric and embittered old woman and her idealistic American grandson struggle to forge a relationship in a city ripped apart by civil war. In a velvet-lined, treasure-filled room, in a house torn open by shelling that balances precariously on 'the line' dividing East and West Beirut, Madeleine lives out her days like a Lebanese Miss Havisham. Refusing to move out during all but the worst of the fighting, she bickers constantly with her long-suffering Arab maid, and enjoys tormenting her already-angry daughter and fussing over her militia-fighting son. On the other side of the world, Madeleine's orphaned grandson Rick is summoned by his guardians and ordered to leave Seattle to stay with the grandmother he has never met. The troubled teenager has recently gone off the rails, and his guardians hope that the unbending old lady will instil some discipline into their wayward charge. Madeleine gleefully awaits Rick's coming, anticipating the amusement she can derive from pulling the young tearaway back into line. But when he arrives, wide-eyed and idealistic, Madeleine is surprised by the feelings he provokes in her. Rick in turn is unprepared for the violence, chaos and colour of 1980s Beirut. But as grandmother and grandson begin to negotiate a tentative relationship, Rick finds both horror and love in the damaged city, and Madeleine is forced to shake off her long-preserved isolation as they find themselves sucked into the whirlwind of the civil war.