Lizzie Jenkins and her almost thirteen-year-old daughter Esmé Jenkins-Strathmore (twelve years, eleven months and 8 days) are on holiday together at a beautiful coastal resort in Cambodia.
Esmé is unaware that only a relatively few short years ago this popular holiday destination for predominately Western tourists saw unimaginable horror during the regime of The Khmer Rouge, with over a million Cambodians, out of a total population of 8 million, dying from executions, overwork, starvation and disease.
All Esmé is aware of is the endless sandy beaches and the blisteringly hot sun which both her and her mother take care to protect themselves from whilst they work on their tans.
Her mother Lizzie intends to take Esmé to one of the many historic Killing Fields sites which she sees as part of Esmé’s world education, but not until late in the second week so as not to spoil her holiday in Cambodia. Ultimately this does not transpire, however Lizzie determines to discuss the history of the country with Esmé during the flight home. This also does not happen.
Recently split up from her ‘insufferable’ writer ex-boyfriend, Lizzie is starting to feel that time is running out for her to be truly happy, or even just content with her life. ‘Maybe just some time away somewhere sunny is the answer’, she thought to herself as she flicked through the listings on Tripadvisor.com a few weeks previously.
With her brother now permanently living with her father Marcus and his new family, Esmé is secretly pleased that it will be just her and her mother on holiday together. It had seemed like such a long time since they had had any fun together, in fact Esmé could hardly remember the last time she had seen her mother smile, let alone laugh.
By the second half of the break Lizzie is feeling relaxed, comfortably dividing her time between the beach and the resort bar. Esmé on the other hand spends a lot of her time with a sixteen-year-old Dutch boy called Gan, who is holidaying without his parents for the very first time.
During the next couple of days Esmé will try marijuana cigarettes and sexual intercourse for the first time.
She will leave Cambodia with the opinion that whilst she enjoyed having sex, she much preferred smoking joints as it made her feel quite lovely, helped her forget about all the sad things in her life, like her mother, and it lasted longer.