During a bitterly cold winter in a snowy northern city, a self-confessed thief has just tried to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree in the local park. Rescued against his will and obliged to attend sessions with a well-meaning but naïve therapist, our narrator tells her – and us – his heartrending and hallucinatory story. From his childhood in a war-torn Arab country, to his current life in the smoky émigré cafes of his new city, Cockroach traces our narrator's journey – his longing for a place in the world, his guilt over his sister's death at the hands of her husband, and his love for an Iranian woman, Shoreh, whose life is also a flight from the darkness of the past. As the stories in this remarkable book converge, our narrator must confront the events of the past in the form of another moral but potentially murderous dilemma in the present . . .