This fictional story, based on Edith Nesbit’s classic children's tale, The Railway Children, is set in 2010 - amidst Colombia's fracturing FARC guerilla war.
One day, in Cali, Colombia, the father of a well-off family goes missing. His wife and two children, Mariella and Jorge, are forced to live with their poor relatives in the tiny agricultural town of Salento, tucked into the heartland of Colombia's coffee-growing region. The children explore their new world, while simultaneously trying to bring their father home.
The story emerges through the POV of Mariella and Jorge: they are outsiders. It is through their shifting perspectives, their growing sense of belonging, that we're plunged into the dust and grit of daily village life.
Their shy cousin Emmanuel helps Mariella and Jorge build a web of connections with the townsfolk, each of whom leads a double life fighting the military arm of the Colombian cartel:
There's bartender Silvio, who maintains a vast vinyl music collection, carefully catalogued in massive ledger books. In fact, his music filing system is really a communication code, a way for the townsfolk to coordinate with the resistance. Father Angelo, the town priest, sets up a fund-sharing system through the daily Mass passing-the-plate ritual. Music Foundation Director, Edgardo, teaches the music to the children of Salento by day, while gathering cartel location information by night. Grandmother Edith, expert butcher and sausage-maker, puts the final steps of the plan in place, by clogging up the streets with her chickens just when the cartel arrives in town.
But it is Emmanuel, an expert paso (high-stepping quarter hourse) rider, who slips out of town late at night, to bring the children's father home.