This is a family story that covers thirty years in the life of the Freytag family (narrated by the grandson, Robert). When his grandfather returns from Russia in 1949, he becomes part of the German "economic miracle" by producing garden gnomes. Klaus, Robert's father, wants to become a writer. He marries Gisela who almost immediately gets pregnant with Robert - but the marriage doesn't work. Both parents abandon the child, and Robert goes on living with both pairs of grand parents. While his father belongs to the 1968 generation that rebels against their fathers he falls in love with the neighbor's's daughter Laura.