Three soldiers walk up to a house in the woods. An old woman who lives in the house offers them food, drink, a place to sit down and against all the rules of civilized hospitality, and in the kind of action that drives Greek Tragedy and propels stories like George RR Martin's along, the soldiers act like really bad guests. They open fire on the old women, a couple of adults, some children and dogs and kill all of them but one little girl who runs off and hides. One of the soldiers then turns around and kills his two companions. Finds the girl, tells her everything is ok and they start to live together in the house, him giving up the life of a solider to try being a farmer, and the girl as his friend.
This isn't really a spoiler, this is the first couple of pages of the book.
The soldier has awful headaches, and may or may not be totally insane. The girl may be retarded. There is some kind of war going on, the kind you hear about in Central American and African countries, with insurgents and government troops and not a whole lot of discipline and difficulty drawing any objective line between good guys and bad guys. The war is going on but it doesn't really touch the house in the woods where a few adults lived and took care of some children who had been entrusted to their care for some reason or another.
Very little information about why anything is the way it is is given in the book. It doesn't help that much of the book is seen through the perspective of the little girl, who may or may not be retarded and from the things the soldier tells the little girl, that may or may not be true, or if it is true it's true from the perspective of someone possibly harboring delusions and paranoia. But the outside world is just something that needs to be shut out for the most part in the book, and when it does start to intrude or pop in for a visit usually things aren't going to go well.
The book isn't difficult at all, but the lack of being able to place the action, the unreliability of the two principle characters and the almost fairy-tale like style the story is told in make it difficult to really get a firm grasp on the book. The book never seemed to welcome me in to it. But normally when I get this feeling from a book it's because the book is intentionally trying to be cold, or it's going out of its way to be too innovative, too much in love with its own cleverness to let a not so smart reader such as myself in on the secret needed to open up the text. Maybe this book just felt pre-occupied, like it was something going on between the two characters that we are invited to watch but sort of in the same way you can watch a couple of little kids playing a game that has no discernible sense to you, but it's obvious that the kids know what is going on but if you were asked to join in you'd stand there like the befuddled adult you are and have no idea what you were supposed to do. That's sort of a weak analogy, because it's not that there isn't sense to the novel, there is, but maybe it's just confusing because the logic of the story, the perspectives, the dialogue is being refracted through a child (whom may or may not be retarded), and an adult who is most likely batshit.