On January 28, 1944, after months of living in Auschwitz, Joseph Frank, a former Jewish elementary school principal and father of two, fails the selection and marches to his death. The Nazis force him and other prisoners to enter a gas chamber.
Before the door to the gas chamber closer, time stops and a letter from God materializes out of thin air. “Joseph, this miracle I am giving you reverses time for one year. I will help you and your family avoid the tragic life you were meant to encounter”. After Joseph reads the letter, time reverses for 1 year.
It is now January 28, 1944. . Joseph and his family are hiding in an attic in Warsaw. In a few months, the Nazi will find the attic and arrest him and his family. Before he was sent to the gas chambers, rumors spread through Auschwitz that the Germans could not survive much longer and they would soon be freed. With that knowledge, Joseph predicts the Nazis will not make it to 1946, meaning he has two options. He can stay in attic and delay their capture by authorities by another two years when the war will end, or leave the attic and head out to a safe haven.
Joseph decides to leave the attic with his family (son named Isaac, daughter named Annabelle (or Anna), and a wife named Rebecca) so a smuggler named Adam agrees to smuggle him to Palestine. But the smuggler also brought with him a Black Muslim family (one daughter, a feminist named Adiva) and Joseph is convinced the Muslim father was his best friend in Auschwitz and knows that his best friend should be Auschwitz, not escaping to Palestine also
The first half of the book covers the family’s daring journey being smuggled to Palestine. First they leave Poland to Soviet Union, then travel down to a port at the Black Sea to Turkey, through Turkey, to the Mediterranean sea, and then to Palestine. Throughout the trip, the two families, especially Adiva and Anna, grow very close. During the boat ride from Soviet Union to Turkey, Muhammad reveals that he received the same miracle that Joseph did, and he thinks that God saved both of them because their children are going to do great things in the world one day. They are simply the parents who are needed to raise to their children to be good people. While on the boat from Turkey to Palestine, God freezes time again, and sends Joseph and Muhammad letters that confirm Muhammad’s belief.
After getting to Palestine, though with a few close calls, the book shifts to 1999, now written from Anna’s perspective (essentially a long epilogue). By this point, Joseph, Rebecca, Muhammad, and Fatima all did of old age. Anna and Adiva are best friends. After the Israeli war, Anna reveals Adiva’s family moved to Jordan and then Adiva goes to college in America, becoming an American citizen and the first female secretary of state (similar to Madeline Albright). Anna is a school principle in Israel and her diary that she left behind while escaping chronicling her life becomes a world wide best seller. Isaac is serving as the Israeli ambassador to U.N. Isaac and Adiva both head to Camp David, where the U.S. president hosts a summit for Palestinian and Israeli governments. With Adiva’s negotiation, a two state solution is agreed upon.
After the peace deal, Adiva, Anna, and Isaac continue their tradition. Once a year, the three children go together, but now with their own children, to Israel and Jordan to visit their parents graves, and the book ends as all of them place rocks on Adiva's parents' graves in Jordan.