Eva, eighteen, and Nell, seventeen, are sisters, adolescents on the threshold of womanhood - and for them anything should be possible. But even as Eva prepares for an audition with the San Francisco Ballet and Nell dreams of her first semester at Harvard, their lives are turned upside down and their dreams are pushed into the shadows. In a nation suddenly without electricity or communication, Eva is compelled to dance alone to the music of memory, and Nell's education consists of reading the encyclopedia, devouring knowledge as if it were her last meal. Theirs is an age of darkness and terror.
A distant war rages overseas. Resources society had depended on, such as gas and electricity, are no longer available. Riots spread through the inner cities, while deadly viral infections spread across the countryside. Isolated in their home in the northern California woods, Eva and Nell live in a world without television or phones, in a time of suspicion and superstition, of anger, hunger, and fear. Perhaps on day the lights - and their dreams - will return, but orphaned by their parents' deaths and by society, Eva and Nell have been left to forage through the forest, and through their past, for the keys to survival. As they blaze a path into the forest and into the future, they become pioneers and pilgrims - not only creatures of the new world, but the creators of it.