This book takes place during World War II in Leningrad during the "seige of Leningrad". Our narrator and main character is alleged to be the author's grandfather, Lev Beniov. The author visits his grandparents in Florida and asks them for their stories of the seige. His grandmother won't talk about it but his grandfather tells his story. When the grandson asks for more details to fill in the gaps, his grandfather tells him, "make it up, you're a writer"
Lev is seventeen and not old enough to join the army. After his mother and sister are evacuated to the country, Lev remains behind in Leningrad. He and his friends are on fire watch duty when they spot a paratrooper falling from the sky. With the hope of food, specifically chocolate, they decide to break curfew and run into the street where the body lay. The teens don't find chocolate but brandy or schnapps and Lev procures a knife. When the police arrive, all escape but Lev.
After surviving the night in the prison known as The Crosses, Lev and his cell mate, Kolya are taken to the NKVD headquarters in Leningrad. Kolya is a soldier in the Red Army who was picked up for desertion. Lev is being held for looting. The general of the NKVD charges them with a task: bring him a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. If they do not, they will be found and shot. If they do, they will get first class ration cards.
This book is the tale of two young men who become friends as they make their way through food deficient Leningrad and out into the countryside. They have to get by both the Red Army as well as the German Army in their quest.
This was a very good book I highly recommend it.