The Strays follows the Trentham family and their other live-in artists in 1930s Melbourne. Bitto draws the reader and narrator, Lily, into the art world through Eva. Lily meets Eva, one of the three daughters of the infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham, on her first day of school and is mesmerized.
Bitto explores the Australian art scene in this story which is loosely based on the Heide Circle. The artists make their own small alternative commune that offers Lily a lack of rules and more fluid way of life. Unfortunately, their radical lifestyle comes at a staggering psychological cost to the sisters.
Fast-forward 30 years, Lily is leading a vanilla life compared to her past. She realized that when the moth flies too close to the flame, it will burn its wings. But it doesn't stop her from going back to the flame, only this time, she won't get to close.