The Land of Eighteen Dreams is a novel about Lily Siegel and her grandfather, Benjamin. Lily narrates eighteen incidents describing their relationship as she grows from age eight to adulthood. As Benjamin tells her the story of his long and conflict-filled life starting with his childhood escape from being kidnapped by the Russian army, he simultaneously offers the wider story of American Jewish life over the last century and distills the inherited folk wisdom of the Eastern European Jewish heritage.
Benjamin is gruff and blunt. He sees himself as a mentor and tries to help Lily learn about the joys and perils of living. He offers a moral prism through which she can deal with the problems of growing up. Lily is quick, questioning, distant from her mother and father, and struggling to understand her world. Her grandfather is her lifeline to understanding that world.
Lily grows from age eight to adulthood in the course of the novel. The book starts in the mid-1950s and is set mostly in a quiet but changing Queens, New York neighborhood of Jackson Heights.