In a tiny village in Finland, Esko Vaananen is at the brink of despair -- he loves a woman he can never have. Suddenly, in the magical light of the aurora borealis, he has a vision of an impossibly tall building rising gracefully from the frozen lake and disappearing into the clouds above him. This pilvenpiirtaja -- "cloud sketcher" or skyscraper -- sparks a lifelong quest for beauty in Esko. He will pursue and protect these two passions -- his vision and his love -- no matter how great the cost, for the rest of his life. It is a journey that leads him into the Bolshevik revolution and the Jazz Age nightclubs of New York City and to strike a Faustian bargain with a ruthless gangster -- all in the pursuit of artistic perfection and impossible, unattainable love.