It is eight years after the fall of communism in Hungary and thus eight years into a freewheeling winner-take-all economy. Anna Levay, a widow, is a secondary school teacher close to retirement. She lives alone on a modest income; her husband was killed in the 1956 revolution and her only son lives in America. One evening after her bath, Anna discovers a strange light encircling her head. It is a halo, like that of a saint. Anna is not a particularly good or religious person, has never attended church and, indeed, doesn't really believe in God. She puts on her bifocals, the cheapest kind issued by the National Health Service, to study it, but there is no mistake. After giving the matter some thought, Anna prudently takes the halo's temperature, not wanting to start a fire, and goes to bed. The halo disturbs her sleep, her composure, and the comfortable routines of her life. She wears sunglasses to bed to dim its brightness. On her way to work, she manages to hide the small corona of light under a rabbit fur hat with ear flaps and is puzzled, after removing her hat at school, that none of her colleagues seem to notice it.
While it soon becomes apparent that only the truly innocent - small children and animals - can see Anna's halo, her concurrent power to perform miracles is readily visible to a less trusting and exclusive audience. Fish inexplicably jump out of the harbor and strand themselves on the town's streets; mysterious healings take place; and Anna begins to recite long passages from the Bible in the middle of her everyday conversations. All of this has not gone unnoticed by the corrupt mayor and his sidekick. They make plans to build a world-class health spa in their small town that would shower them with wealth, and they need Anna to cooperate. But instead of wealthy tourists, the town is overrun with the infirm and the handicapped in search of the miracles they heard about. Suffice it to say this is not what the mayor had in mind. How they plot to get Anna quietly out of the way is yet one more miscalculation in their greedy scheme.
"A delightful story with a fine sense of social satire. It is precisely the almost sober style coupled with precise detail that provides the wonderful irony, and in many passages the splendid narrative style is reminiscent of that of Joseph Roth."