The darkest day of the year, winter solstice. The darkest year of the era, 1940 Latvia. Still, seventeen-year-old Kārlis Perkons and friends, The Nonchalants, vow to resist the Russian occupation. Oaths are tested when Peters Kalnins is interrogated at the Corner House, Eriks Gailis flees to the forest, and Kārlis Perkons is conscripted to the Red Army. Tensions hit home, where Kārlis shares his room with uprooted Hugo Krumins, who repays him by stealing Kārlis’s girl.
Boys become radicalized, trading dreams of the Art Academy for schemes to get guns, and grasping a mysterious fortitude found in deep forest lore. Can solstice mumming, Yule logs, herbal medicinals and falling in love stand up against interrogation, torture, disappearances and rumors of worse to come? Pray the Germans will invade in time to save them from Stalin’s atrocities. But when the Nazis do come, that’s who Kārlis will be sent to fight.