Disparate characters, all tied together in some way, experience the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and living in the Soviet Union at that time (1986) in several different ways. Their tales are woven together beautifully by McKeon. His research of Chernobyl is impressive, and I learned much about the disaster, most of which, of course, was horrifying. My favorite horror (but not one of the gruesome ones) was that there was a manual at Chernobyl for the operators on what to do in the event of a catastrophic meltdown, but most of it was blacked-out, redacted because it would be treasonous to suggest that the Mother Land was fail in this way. The first aid rooms were unstocked for the same reason.
This is a story about individuals operating in crisis mode, but it's as much about the policies of the government, too. A piece of the story takes place in Moscow, where Chernobyl is hardly more than a rumor, where people are busy with trying to survive day to day. That helps to round out the story -- it is not just a story of failed technology, but a failed system as well.
The central characters have a heart-breaking love story, a failed marriage, that provides the romantic aspect, and I thought it was beautifully done. The characters as a whole are well written and fleshed out. I really enjoyed the experience of this book, from beginning to end, as frustrating as the situations described were.