Oskar’s grandma writes a letter to Oskar dated September 12, 2003. She’s at the airport and wants to tell Oskar everything.
As a child in Dresden, Grandma finds a letter with no addressee while bringing in the mail. She opens it and finds a fifteen-year-old letter from a prisoner in a Turkish labor camp. Grandma hides the letter and tells no one about it. She wonders who the sender might be and why they were imprisoned.
She asks her father to write her a letter. Puzzled, he complies, writing that he hopes that one day she experiences doing something she doesn’t understand for someone she loves.
She next goes to the jail, where her uncle works, in order to get a handwriting sample from a murderer. Grandma and her uncle trick a prisoner into writing a letter by asking him to write an appeal for early release.
Unsatisfied with these samples, Grandma asks for letters from everyone around her, including her grandmother. Delighted with this opportunity for connection, her grandmother writes down her life story. The letter includes an anecdote about a ruby bracelet her grandfather gave her that was too big for her. Her grandfather meant to convey the size of his love in the oversized bracelet, but Grandma’s grandmother couldn’t wear it. She promises that if she ever gets Grandma a bracelet, she’ll measure her wrist twice. Grandma tries to find connections between the letters.
Grandma moves to America. Two months later, she runs into Thomas. Thomas was a friend of Grandma’s sister, Anna. Grandma once stumbled upon Thomas and Anna kissing. She told Anna that she had seen them, and Anna made her promise not to tell anyone. Grandma asked if she could watch Anna and Thomas kiss, and Anna agreed. Thomas had also been included in Grandma’s letter collection. His letter, addressed to “Anna’s sweet little sister,” described his dream to marry Anna and become a sculptor.