This only somewhat fictionalized biographical work can be seen as Ogino's search for her own roots. In the book, the author sets out on a journey to explore the origins of Henri Gaillard, her father, who still has a face of Cupid-like innocence in his eighties despite a tendency to drunken violence. Henri was born in 1914 in the town of Saintes in the Saintonge region of France. The narrator's research into his life, background and family take her to Saintes, San Francisco, and Papua New Guinea, among the "more than a hundred countries" that Henri recalled visiting as a sailor.
Henri was the third of four children. To what degree was he influenced by his liberal mother, who was born in France, but spent her formative years in the United States before returning to her homeland and motherhood? With nothing more to go on than a few documents and photos she received from her father, the narrator continues with her unplanned journey, pondering the man. She discovers that the four siblings have their disagreements and also finds out about (and interviews) her father's half-sister, who suffers from a neurological disorder. Eventually the narrator learns that her father named her Anna after his first lover. The dramatic travelogue gains added zest from its sprinkling of conversations in English and French.