The three women in this book lived three very different lives, even though they were all from the same family, mother, and two daughters. Each was shaped by circumstances of history, and traumatic events in their lives that isolated them from each other. The mother grew old, the sisters grew up, and they went their separate ways, holding misunderstandings and resentments mingled with familial love and duty.
All this changed when Mary, the eldest daughter invited her mother Fenglan to visit and emigrate to the United States. This event brings the three together, at first awkwardly, almost as strangers. But when her mother reveals a shameful family secret to Mary, she starts to see everything differently about her mother and her father. She started to understand what love and sacrifice meant and how that glue held her parents together and reflecting on the hardships they went through, Mary started to feel closer to her younger sister, instead of always resenting her or controlling her. The book ends kind of slowly, and meanders about, after the major revelations and reconciliations. But it gives us a glimpse of what life was like for the people left in China after the Communist takeover, and the effect it had on those of the lost generation of the Cultural Revolution and their children.