A mysterious burnt corpse appears one morning in Saraaya, a remote border town between northern and southern Sudan. For five strangers on an NGO compound, the discovery foreshadows trouble to come. South Sudanese translator William connects the corpse to the sudden disappearance of cook Layla, a northern nomad with whom he's fallen in love. Meanwhile, Sudanese American filmmaker Dena struggles to connect to her unfamiliar homeland, and white midwestern aid worker Alex finds his plans thwarted by a changing climate and looming civil war. Dancing between the adults is Mustafa, a clever, endearing twelve-year-old, whose schemes to rise out of poverty set off cataclysmic events on the compound.