Young and talented, Nicholas ‘Nico’ Grand has risen quickly up the political ladder and, still in his late twenties, is a major contender in the New York City mayoral race. But on Election Day, a celebrity gossip website breaks a story that could derail his chances: Nico, it claims, is the never-before-revealed father of a daughter born to Estonian supermodel Mari Sokolov. The reports sends the campaign into a tailspin, and it triggers deep memories from the past for Nico. Eleven years before, when he was still in high school, Nico was selected to take part in the Hallström student exchange program and he traveled to Tallinn to live with the Sokolov family.
Flashback to 2002. Nico leaves New York, where his beloved sister, Nora, has recently suffered a terrible accident that has left her memory severely impaired, and arrives in Estonia for a semester with his new family. His Estonian “brother,” Paavo, is a clever teenager, a lover of riddles, and the victim of bullying by his local peers. Paavo’s beautiful sister, Mari, is on the verge of international modeling success. Their father, Leo, is Russian, adding a layer of complexity to their life in the newly nationalistic Estonia. Nico’s months in the proud Baltic country will open his eyes to a new world as he forges new bonds that, he will learn, can never be broken. When Paavo accompanies Nico back to the States for his turn to live with the Grands, the cultural enlightenment will be reversed.
But, the cultural exchange will have unintended consequences for all. As the stories of the members of two very different families play out, Nico and Paavo, Mari, Nora, and the others, will discover the connections and limits of friendship and love. Surprising events will test loyalties and believes, and forever change all of their lives, for better or worse. About the author: Padukone is a writer and a proud native of New York City, where many of her stories take place. A graduate of Stuyvesant High School and the London School of Economics, Pia entered the professional writing world as a copywriter for advertising agencies.