An old American who lives in Brazil is writing his memoirs. An English teacher at the naval academy, he is married to a woman young enough to be his daughter and has a little son whom he loves. He sits in a mountain garden in Niterói, overlooking the ocean.
As he reminisces and writes, placing the pages carefully in his antproof case, we learn that he was a World War II ace who was shot down twice, an investment banker who met with popes and presidents, and a man who was never not in love. He was the thief of the century, a murderer, and a protector of the innocent. And all his life he waged a valiant, losing, one-man battle against the world’s most insidious enslaver: coffee.
Mark Helprin combines adventure, satire, flights of transcendence, and high comedy in this "memoir" of a man whose life reads like the song of the twentieth century.