One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, 17-year-old Luisa does not return home from school.
Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomàs, a boy she barely knows.
He seems to represent everything her life is lacking - recklessness, impulse, independence - and may also help her fulfil an unusual obsession: to track down a troupe of Ukrainian dwarfs who have recently escaped a Soviet circus touring Mexico.
They head for Zipolite, the 'Beach of the Dead', a community peopled by hippies, nudists, beach combers and eccentric storytellers, and Luisa searches for someone, anyone, who will 'promise, no matter what, to remain a mystery'.
But as she wanders the shoreline, she begins to discover that a quest is more easily envisioned than accomplished.