Twenty-two-year-old Parveen is an Afghan-American anthropology student at UC Berkeley, adrift between the separate pulls of a charismatic professor whose contempt for Western cultural narratives runs deep, Afghan immigrant parents who have never quite found their footing in America's strange orbit, and the illicit secret life of young Afghan Americans trying to live normal lives in America. When she comes upon a best-selling book called Mother Afghanistan, a memoir by humanitarian Gideon Crane that has been turned into a sort of bible for American engagement abroad, she's inspired. Galvanized by the author's experience and bent on following in his footsteps, Parveen travels to a remote village in the land of her birth to join with his charitable foundation. When she arrives, however, Gideon's clinic is not a light in the war-torn darkness but a decrepit, unstaffed tomb, the shadowy remains of the place she'd read about. Bit by bit, the fabrications in Gideon's account are revealed, until the foundation on which Parveen chose to make her life-changing pilgrimage crumbles beneath her. Meanwhile, various forces on both sides of the perpetual conflict are amassing, eager to use Crane's words and Parveen's presence to their own ends. When a dramatic bombing occurs, Parveen must decide whether her loyalties lie with the villagers or with the U.S. military-- and, by extension, America.