Mainly the story of Shinsuke and his stepmother, ranging from Shinsuke's infanthood to his mid-teens. Coal workers and the mines dominate nearly every aspect of the life of the characters. Shinsuke's father dies while bravely using dynamite to rescue a group of trapped Korean miners. Several older men attempt to help he and his mother cope, including a kind Korean and a Harley-riding yakuza.
While serving time for insanity at a state mental hospital, implacable rabble-rouser, Randle Patrick McMurphy inspires his fellow patients to rebel against the authoritarian rule of head nurse, Mildred Ratched.
In Montauban in 1944, Julien Dandieu in a surgeon in the local hospital. Frightened by the German army entering Montauban, he asks his friend Francois to drive his wife and his daughter in the back country village where Julien has an old castle.
100 miles north, a bit east and up, is Flåklypa... home of bicycle repairman Reodor Felgen and his two assistants - Solan Gundersen, morning bird and natural born optimist, and Ludvig who is a true pessimist.