Twenty-five-year-old twins, Zack and Zoe Elliott, grew up in San Diego, never knowing their father. Only after their mother's death, do they discover a clue -- a love letter mailed from Australia before they were born. A man named William, tells her his next port of call will be Mozambique on Africa's east coast.
Zoe, ever cautious, thinks investigating would be an expensive waste of time. But Zack, in his usual dive-in-the-deep-end style, flies to Mozambique to hunt for his father. When he mails Zoe an air ticket, she relents and follows. And so begins their search through a beautiful and primitive land half a world away.
They befriend Nic Cavanaugh, a British photographer, and Kristof, a South African adventurer. Along the way, they cross paths with a deaf, black child, an English couple teaching sustainable agriculture, and a mysterious, self-proclaimed prophet.
From the beginning, Zoe had fought this trip, all edgy and cynical and anxious. But once in Mozambique, she mellows as Africa seeps like a seductive drumbeat into her psyche. Whether or not their hunt is successful, this trip will change their lives forever in ways neither of them could have predicted.
Typhoon Haruma veers south from Madagascar, strengthening to hurricane force over Mozambique. It unleashes torrential rainfall and powerful winds that generate twenty-foot waves in the Mozambique Channel.
Just after midnight, a flash flood roars down the Limpopo River, inundating a village of reed huts along its banks, sweeping the villagers into the muddy flow. Struggling to keep her head above water, a pregnant woman grabs at the roots of a tree on a tiny island in the middle of the river. Its ancient branches stretch fifty feet into the night sky. As the rising water covers the last of the land, she begins to climb the tree, searching in the dark for branches to grasp and footholds for her bare feet. Lightning crackles across the clouds. Wind tugs at her tunic, rain pelts her eyes and nose and mouth. She climbs until the branches above her are too weak to bear her weight. Then she settles into a fork between the trunk and the highest thick branch and waits, trying to ignore the sharp insistent stabs of pain in her belly.
The floodwaters inundate the beaches along the Indian Ocean, disgorging floating bodies, goats, huts and trees into the stormy seas. A mile beyond the coast, a yacht dips and rolls under the constant pounding of the wind, rain and waves. The tightly-furled sales pull looose. Canvas snaps and rips. A man is thrown to the deck and slammed against the railing by the violent waves crashing over the boat. He clings to the metal with fingers numb from cold, his screams swallowed by the wind. The tall mast splinters and cracks, amid a tangle of rigging, smashing the wheelhouse before it tumbles into the sea.
Another giant wave slams the yacht broadside, engulfing the man and ripping loose his grip. He struggles for air as the force of the water flings him overboard and into the depths of the turbulent Indian Ocean.