The following was developed by the editorial staff at Cricket and Miriam Bat-Ami
When the novel opens in early June 1944, Chris and Adam are leading vastly different lives. Chris - a fourteen-year-old Catholic American girl - is bored with her existence, which revolves around school, family, friends, and church; Adam - a fifteen-year-old Jewish Yugoslav boy - is weary from more than a year spent hiding in Rome from Nazi authorities. After Rome's liberation, Adam and his mother and sister, Mira, join nearly 1,000 refugees bound for America, though they know leaving Europe will put more distance between them and Adam's father and brother, Villi, who are missing in Yugoslavia. As he sails across the Atlantic, Adam is struck by a vision of the setting sun reflecting off the ocean, looking as though there are in fact two suns. He's reminded of a tale his father told - a man who sees two suns in the sky will never be the same.
Chris's unrest pushes her into secret rebellion against her repressive father; though he forbids her to see the new refugee camp at Fort Ontario, she goes anyway, and there, across the fence, she first sees Adam. She hands her bicycle over the fence to Mira, impressing Adam with her generosity, and though the two haven't actually met, they begin intruding on each other's thoughts.
When the school year starts, they discover that they share homeroom, and when they're introduced to each other by a mutual friend (Tikvah, another refugee), the attraction between them grows. At the same time, they face mounting opposition from their parents. Adam's mother insists that he ought not get involved with a local girl, as the Bornsteins are waiting for their new life to begin. And Chris's father distrusts foreigners and resents the government's bringing Jews into the country. When the Bornsteins are invited to the Cooks' house for Thanksgiving dinner, holiday spirits turn to antagonism after a game of Ten Bible Questions. But for the first time, Chris and Adam kiss. And a short while later, Adam finally receives word that Villi and his father are still alive.
Over the next several months, Chris and Adam grow more serious with their relationship. They sneak off for dates at the movies or at the library, and they meet at the refugee camp. But when Chris's cousin, Dick, dies fighting in Europe, she's torn away from Adam and finds herself locked again in her old life. Before the funeral, she confesses all to her priest, who encourages her to maintain her focus on her faith. She vows to obey her parents and not to see Adam anymore.
For a while, Chris keeps her promise. She distracts herself with a job at a nearby chocolate factory and with dreams of becoming a Wac. And Adam dreams of being an American. In April 1945, Adam learns that his father has died, and shortly after, Chris is rocked by the death of President Roosevelt. She storms out of her parents' house and goes to see Adam, despite her father's threats. At the camp, Adam and Chris comfort each other, but when Chris goes home, her father beats her with a strap.
The next morning, Chris and Adam run off to New York City for the day. On the way home in the evening, Adam discovers the scars on Chris's back. He begs her to leave home and to live with his family, but she refuses. That night, Adam gives Chris a belated Christmas gift - the crucifix he wore while pretending to be a Catholic boy in Rome. Chris decides that she can no longer live with lies; she'll be honest with her family. But she realizes, too, that soon Adam will leave - and leave her behind.
For several months, they don't see each other - Adam must prepare to become an American citizen, and Chris begins working for the local newspaper. When, in February 1946, Adam and his family finally leave the camp to become Americans, he and Chris meet one last time before he leaves.
A Historical Note on Yugoslavia
The nation of Yugoslavia was formed in 1918, just after the end of World War I, and was first called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. It changed its name to Yugoslavia in 1929, and though it was conquered by the Germans in World War II, it reemerged afterward as a Communist republic under the leadership of Marshal Tito and continued with approximately the same borders for more than forty years.
In the early 1990s, Yugoslavia's constituent republics - particularly Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina - began to demand independence from the Serb-dominated central government. These moves toward independence led to bitter civil wars and the concept of "ethnic cleansing," the attempt to "purify" a land for one ethnic group by either killing or driving away people of other groups. Ethnic cleansing is a form of genocide similar in intent (though not in scope) to that practiced by the Nazis during World War II.
During Yugoslavia's civil wars - particularly those in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo - America has wrestled with the question of what to do with great numbers of refugees who flee political violence. While discussing this book with classes, it may be helpful to bring in current events and to ask what responsibilities the United States has either to provide a safe haven for refugees or to alleviate the situations that cause them to leave their homes.