It was December, 1941. It had been six months since the Germans had kept Leningrad under siege, trapping the Russians, cutting off all land connections so as to starve the residents of the city. Seventeen year old Lev Beniov had been arrested for looting. Russian soldier Kolya Vlasov had been thrown into Lev’s jail cell into the dreaded “The Crosses” for desertion. It was a certainty that the two men would be executed in the morning, without trial, since there was no food to give them to keep them alive while in prison. But in the morning, something unexpected happened. The guards came for Lev and Kolya, escorting them to the colonel’s office. He made them a very unusual offer, one that seemed impossible, but one they couldn’t refuse if their lives were to be spared. He wanted the two men to steal a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake. They had five days to accomplish this task, at which time he would set them free and give them back their ration cards.
Lev and Kolya embark on an odyssey to find the impossible dozen eggs, a quest that propels them from the lawless streets of Leningrad to the devastated countryside behind German lines. As they encounter murderous city dwellers, guerilla partisans, and finally the German army itself, an unlikely bond forms between them. With every encounter, it seems as though they have met the end of their road, only to find help from people equally as desperate as they were. The author, David Benioff, gives the story a personal touch in making it appear as though Lev Benioff was his grandfather, and that the story was told to him while visiting his retired grandparents in Florida. Excellent character development set against the backdrop of the infamous siege of Leningrad make for a great read.