David Monroe is a young New Zealander who, during World War I, finds himself in the heat of battle in Gallipoli, standing beside a Turkish doctor named Mahmoud who directs David to save a wounded soldier. The next instant, a shell bursts over them and David and Mahmoud are both sent to an army hospital on Lemnos. As their wounds heal, a deep and enduring bond grows between them and Mahmoud begins to teach David some of the truths of Sufi mysticism. Their bond is strong enough for David to want to betray his country for his friend, which nearly gets him executed. The savage punishment that follows will break and then remake him and ultimately allow David to find deep compassion within himself.