Alba is born at the time and in the place most auspicious for her horoscope. Her birth is a family affair – Jaime, Clara, and Amanda help Blanca bring the baby into the world, while Miguel, Alba's future boyfriend, watches from inside a wardrobe.
Alba spends the first seven years of her life in the strange company of her eclectic family members and the friends and spirits who populate the big house on the corner. She's very close to all of her family members, especially her Grandmother Clara, who she perceives to be the life force of the house.
Clara gives Alba a set of paints for Christmas. Alba paints the walls of her bedroom in an immense fresco.
Esteban Trueba takes Alba to Tres Marías twice a year, where they engage in grandfather-granddaughter bonding activities.
Alba meets Pedro Tercero García, without being told that he's her real father.
Alba helps her mother teach pottery classes to "mongoloid" children, instilling in her the idea that normality is a gift from God.
At the age of six, Alba encounters Esteban García in her grandfather's library, and he nearly strangles her to death.
Clara dies on Alba's seventh birthday. Alba knows that the big house on the corner won't be the same without her grandmother's binding presence.
Alba is forced to attend a British boarding school, which she hates.
Alba attends university, where she meets Miguel, a young revolutionary. It's love at first sight. Alba hides her connections to Senator Trueba and starts hanging out with a revolutionary crowd.
Alba tries to participate in a student strike, but gets really sick and starts bleeding all over the place. She has to go home, accompanied by Esteban García, who's now a police officer. Miguel finds out that Alba's been hiding her family heritage from him.
Alba recalls the time Esteban García forced her to kiss him on her fourteenth birthday.
Alba and Miguel make up and experience a sexual awakening together. Ah, young love.
Alba starts to parrot a lot of Miguel's political rhetoric about the need for revolution, and gets into debates about it with her Uncle Jaime.
Alba gets Jaime to agree to help Miguel's sister, who's sick. Jaime is surprised to see that his sister is Amanda.
The Socialists win the Presidential election, and Alba celebrates in the streets with the workers.
Alba sneaks food from her mother's storage, and gives it to Miguel to distribute to the poor.
Alba discovers that her grandfather is importing guns and storing them in the big house on the corner. She and Jaime steal the arms and bury them in the mountains.
Alba goes with her mother and Pedro Tercero to rescue Esteban Trueba from Tres Marías, where he's being held hostage. On the way, she finds out that Pedro Tercero is her dad.
Luisa Mora shows up at the big house on the corner to warn Alba that death is at her heels. She advises Alba to leave the country.
The military revolts. Esteban toasts the coup, and Alba snatches his glass from his hand and smashes it against the wall.
Alba spends anxious days worrying about her friends and family members who are being persecuted by the military. She destroys incriminating documents in the house.
Alba begins to help victims of the persecution by smuggling them into embassies, where they can get asylum. She also gets her mother to donate food to the soup kitchens, and starts to sell the furniture to earn money to feed the poor.
Alba and her grandfather attend the Poet's funeral.
Miguel shows up, and he and Alba are joyfully reunited for a short time. Alba shows Miguel where to find the guns that she and Jaime buried.
The secret police show up in the middle of the night and take Alba into custody. Alba's taken to a secret prison, where she's delivered into the hands of Esteban García.
Esteban García tortures Alba for an indeterminate amount of time.
Alba's cellmate is Ana Díaz, an indomitable woman who helps Alba to resist.
Esteban García then puts Alba in "the doghouse," a tiny cell used for solitary confinement. Alba gives up the will to live.
Clara's spirit appears to Alba and convinces her to try to survive. She gives Alba the idea of composing a testimony in her mind as a tool for survival.
By writing in her mind, Alba succeeds in placing herself beyond Esteban García's power.
Tránsito Soto secures Alba's release, and Alba returns home to her grandfather, minus three fingers.
Alba tells her grandfather how she was transferred from the Ministry of Defense to a secret clinic, and then to a concentration camp for women, before she was finally released.
Alba and her grandfather fix up the house and begin to write the novel we have just read.
Alba holds Esteban Trueba's hand while he dies, and he confuses her for Clara.
Alba forgives her torturers, and writes about her family's tale while she waits for Miguel and for the child in her womb to be born.