Through the pages, Esma reminisces about her family, stretching back three generations to her grandmother and the births of her mother and aunt in a village on the edge of Euphrates. These twin girls were born into the world as a great disappointment, which was common in their village. In alternating chapters, Esma tells of her mother, Pembe who married her father, Adem and eventually moved to London with their three children. While her aunt Jamila remained behind becoming a virgin midwife. Time passes and Jamila has a premonition that her sister is in danger, but before it can be stopped, tragedy strikes and Pembe is murdered.
Shafak has created a dark, but wonderfully gripping novel.