The story opens with the discovery of a mysterious box from the distant past. Its makers are five orphaned friends who hope to help civilizational knowledge survive disruptive climate change centuries in the future: the ending of the Ice Age. The bar is continuously raised as the box traverses more than a dozen settings to the present day. Readers are tacitly encouraged to partner with the author and fill in the blanks by considering their metaphorical boxes, lessons for the future from their past.
Exchanges between cultures and generations highlight human transience. Adoption is the preeminent motif, many characters being orphaned, or having adopted, or both. Nature’s agency is felt throughout the story, with animals, plants and landscapes presented as respected partners rather than resources to be exploited. Nothing can fully reconcile human contradictions, and true equilibrium must come from a transcendent perspective. Plural identity followed by association with all humans, past, present and future, is only a good start. Can we progress beyond all life forms? The book ends on the question: what can you do but hope?