The novel begins on a foggy morning in Lower Manhattan in the spring of 1941. The dark shadow of Nazism had spread across Europe and Adolph Hitler was looking to expand the boundaries of the Third Reich. In Japan, militarists were plotting fresh conquests. Along both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, old forts and cannons stood guard against potential enemies that seemed far away. America in those days thought of itself as inviolable, isolated from the troubles of the world by two large oceans. Its focus was inward. A decade earlier, the Roaring Twenties had ended with a crash on Wall Street. The pain of the Great Depression lingered on, but the prospects were for a gradual return to prosperity. It was a time when Americans might have said to themselves, "Things aren't great but they could be worse."
Indeed they could. As the morning fog lifts on April Fool's Day, the joke of the hour turns out to be no laughing matter. A national tragedy is unfolding and illusions of invincibility are shattered. The setting soon shifts from New York and the East Coast to America's Heartland. In a small town on the banks of the Mississippi, residents find their lives turned upside down by unwanted visitors wearing black uniforms who parade through the corridors of the local hospital with their jackboots clicking. They have come to commit acts of terror and mass murder.
This is an "event" story with unforgettable characters: Ma Popcorn, Buddy the Bricklayer, Polar Bear, Clyde the Shoemaker and the mysterious Mr. Mud. You'll meet Edith, a tenacious teenager and her high-strung mother, along with Senator Phil LaGassly and Andy Mattson, a bilingual country newspaper editor approaching middle age who lives for the day when he can find a little peace in this life. Circumstances force him to become an adventurer. Together with his ex-finance – the proprietress of Ruthie's Rattle Inn--Andy is drawn into a clandestine scheme aimed at turning back the clock and making things the way they were before April Fool's Day.