Imagine a world without poverty, hunger, or hatred, where a rich culture honors its diverse mix of races, religions, and heritages, and the Four Sacred Things that sustain all life – earth, air, fire, and water – are valued unconditionally. Now imagine the opposite: a nightmare world in which an authoritarian regime polices an apartheid state, access to food and water is restricted to those who obey the corrupt official religion, women are property of their husbands or the state, and children are bred for prostitution and war. The best and worst of our possible futures are poised to clash in twenty-first-century California, and the outcome rests on the wisdom and courage of one clan caught in the conflict.
Ninety-eight-year-old Maya has helped shape the ecumenical culture of the North by reviving and re-creating an earth-based spiritual tradition. Madrone, the granddaughter of Maya’s longtime lovers, is a healer trying to thwart recurring epidemics that she suspects are biological warfare waged by the tyrannical South. Bird, Maya’s grandson, returns from ten years in a Southern prison with warnings of impending invasion and an urgent request for help from the resistance in the hills. When Madrone travels south to aid the rebels and search for a cure to the deadly viruses, she finds herself fighting for her own life alongside battle-weary guerrillas and beautiful pirates.
Meanwhile, in the North debates rage about how to repel the invaders. “All war is first waged in the imagination, first conducted to limit our dreams and visions, ” Maya says, and warns that by killing their enemies, they may themselves become transformed by violence and destroy all they have built. Bird champions her alternative vision and becomes a leader of the faction calling for nonviolent resistance. When he is captured and pressured to cooperate with the enemy, the fate of the North hangs in the balance.