Sophie's Choice presents the consequences of lives dramatically thrust together in the wake of tragedy, and the results that come from having to face the horror of living through the unimaginable.

Set in 1947, the story is told from the perspective of Stingo, a young aspiring writer from Virginia who moves to Brooklyn in order to work on his first novel. There he meets Sophie and Nathan, a charming couple who dazzle him with their friendship. Stingo falls for Sophie, a beautiful Polish émigré, but she is deeply in love with Nathan, a brilliant, unstable Jewish man from New York.

Sophie, a Polish Catholic, was the daughter and wife of Nazi sympathisers and the lover of a Polish resistance fighter during the Nazi occupation of Poland. After her lover is killed by the Gestapo, Sophie is arrested for smuggling food to her dying mother. She is sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp, where she is forced to make a horrifying choice that will haunt the rest of her life. At the end of the war, Sophie is liberated from Auschwitz and emigrates to America, where she meets Nathan through a chance encounter in a library. This leads to a passionate, destructive relationship that consumes these tragically damaged individuals. As the volatile relationship waxes and wanes, the shockwaves have a profound effect on everyone around them. 

While Nathan struggles in the depths of mental illness, Sophie is consumed with guilt and pain from the decisions of the past. This makes for a troubled relationship of corrupted love and bitter, hateful confrontations, all shown through Stingo's eyes. Although he loves them both, Stingo cannot save Sophie and Nathan from their self-destructive path. In the end, this dysfunctional relationship damages even the narrator, as Stingo tries to come to terms with the terrible truths behind the carefully created fictions of his troubled friends.