Summary: Chapter One
In the present day, Ruth has hired an elderly man named Mr. Tang to translate LuLing’s narrative. Mr. Tang becomes fascinated with the story he uncovers. While he is working, Ruth stays at her mother’s house. Art is initially worried by this decision, fearing that it reflects her being unhappy with their relationship. To explain to LuLing why she is moving in with her, Ruth says that she is working on a children’s book and wants LuLing to do the illustrations. Living with her mother gives Ruth the sense that she is reverting to an earlier version of herself. It also gives her the chance to reflect on her relationship with Art, and she is pleased to see that both he and the girls seem to miss her more than she expected.
Mr. Tang calls to tell Ruth that he has finished the translation, although he is curious about whether there is more to the document. Ruth invites him to come to dinner so that he can deliver the translation and meet LuLing in person. Because of what he knows about her past, Mr. Tang reminisces with LuLing as if they are old friends. As soon as he leaves, Ruth reads the document, realizing that some of what she interpreted as signs that LuLing was confused was actually rooted in real history. She now has a new perspective on her mother and their relationship.
The next day, Ruth phones Art and tells him what she has learned. Art shares that he has been reflecting on their relationship and the future. He asks Ruth if she would consider finding an assisted living facility for LuLing. Ruth is initially resistant, but she is touched that Art is taking an interest in the situation. Art fakes a letter claiming that there are signs of dangerous chemical levels near LuLing’s house and that the local government is going to pay for her to stay at a “luxury residence” for several months. This way, Ruth and Art can secretly get LuLing to give the assisted living home a chance. Ruth is impressed with the commitment Art shows to the plan. She and Art go and visit the residence he selects, and Ruth is impressed with the facilities but horrified by the cost. Art reassures her that he is happy to cover the cost and urges Ruth to be more accepting when people show her kindness and love. LuLing seems happy to move to the facility, especially once Art and Ruth convince her that she is getting a better deal than everyone else.
Summary: Chapter Two
The family gathers to celebrate GaoLing’s birthday. Ruth manages to find a moment alone with GaoLing and mentions a few of the details she has learned from reading her mother’s manuscript. GaoLing assumes that LuLing has finally shared this information with her daughter. GaoLing explains that she always thought it was fine to simply tell the truth, but LuLing insisted on keeping the secret. Edmund is the only one who knows the truth. Ruth tells GaoLing about the manuscript, which she believes LuLing wrote seven or eight years ago, possibly when she began to be concerned about her own memory. She also mentions the idea of LuLing moving into a care home. GaoLing initially objects, but Ruth persuades her to visit the facility. Ruth says that she will not make any decisions without GaoLing’s approval. She also wants GaoLing to read the document.
GaoLing provides additional details about individuals mentioned in the manuscript. Chang was arrested after the war for shady business practices and executed. Most of his family was left penniless, and Fu Nan eventually died. GaoLing has never told anyone about her first husband. GaoLing explains that when her father-in-law died, she and Edmund felt badly about LuLing only being left a small amount of money. They split the inheritance and gave her half, but LuLing never spent the money. She invested it so that it has grown over time. However, GaoLing cannot remember the key piece of information Ruth wants: Precious Auntie’s real name. The conversation ends abruptly when LuLing falls into the swimming pool and has to be rescued by Art. The next day, Ruth moves some of her mother’s items to the assisted living home. That night, she and Art have dinner. They discuss their love for one another and their desire to move to a new stage of their relationship where they will be more honest and emotionally intimate.
Summary: Chapter Three
The narrative resumes about a month later. LuLing lives happily at the assisted living home and enjoys a new relationship with Mr. Tang. One day, Mr. Tang takes LuLing, Ruth, and Art to a museum where he shows them an ancient bone object. LuLing recognizes it as the “oracle bone” she once owned and sold. As LuLing drifts into the recollection, she shares her mother’s name: Liu Xin Gu. At first, Ruth is elated, but then she realizes that since “gu” is the Chinese word for “bone,” her mother must simply be confused. She feels defeated, wondering if she will ever know the family name of her maternal grandmother. However, Ruth is heartened by the relationship developing between her mother and Mr. Tang. That night, Art suggests that he and Ruth consider marriage.