Lindo remembers when, at the age of two, a matchmaker came to her house to arrange a match between her and the son of Huang Taitai, a one-year old boy.
Lindo’s parents stop treating her as their daughter, but as Huang Taitai’s daughter.
Lindo continues living with her parents, seeing the Huang family during festivals and such. She realizes that her husband-to-be, Tyan-yu, is a spoiled little boy due to his position as the Huang family’s only son.
When Lindo is twelve, a flood destroys most of her family’s property, leaving them bankrupt.
Lindo’s entire family moves to Wushi, leaving Lindo behind to join the Huang household.
Her mother tells her not to disgrace the family.
When Lindo arrives at the Huang house, she is treated like a servant, but she is determined to honor her family.
Lindo learns to cook and clean and embroider to meet the exact standards of Tyan-yu and Huang Taitai. She also learns to treat Tyan-yu as a god and his mother as her real mother.
When Lindo turns sixteen, Huang Taitai makes preparations for a marriage.
Huang Taitai prepares an elaborate wedding, but the week before the wedding, Japanese soldiers begin invading the region.
On the day of the wedding, it begins to rain. People confused it with bombs and decided not to leave their homes.
Before her wedding, Lindo watches the rainstorm and realizes the power of the wind – although it is invisible, it is powerful.
She vows never to forget herself, her value, and her inner, genuine thoughts.
During the ceremony, a candle with two ends is lit. It is supposed to burn continuously throughout the night, symbolizing a marriage that can never be broken.
The candle is supposed to seal Lindo to the Huang family forever.
After the marriage, Tyan-yu throws Lindo out of his bed, instructing her to sleep on the sofa.
Lindo goes out to the courtyard where she can see a servant looking after the marriage candle. The servant is supposed to ensure that the candle never goes out.
The servant is scared by loud thunder, and runs away. Lindo creeps up and blows out one end of the candle.
Lindo and Tyan-yu never consummate their marriage, but Lindo remains an obedient wife.
Huang Taitai finally gets mad at Lindo for failing to produce grandchildren.
Although Lindo finally starts sleeping in the same bed as Tyan-yu, Tyan-yu refuses to touch her. Lindo hypothesizes that he’s like a little boy that never grew up.
Lindo begins to love Tyan-yu as a younger brother.
Huang Taitai confines Lindo to bed rest. She follows all sorts of superstitions, like removing all the scissors and knives from Lindo’s bedroom.
Four times a day, a nice servant girl feeds Lindo some awful medicine.
Lindo watches the girl enviously, watching her go about her chores and tease a cute delivery man.
After this goes on for a while, Huang Taitai consults the matchmaker, who argues that Lindo is too balanced in all the elements. Huang Taitai then reclaims all of Lindo’s jewelry too free her of her metal element.
For the first time, Lindo begins to think independently. She plots a way to escape her marriage without breaking her promise to her parents.
She waits for an auspicious day.
Lindo uses a dream to inform/convince Huang Taitai that a) the marriage candle blew out; b) Tyan-yu would die if he stayed married to Lindo; and c) that a pregnant servant girl is really of imperial blood, is Tyan-yu’s true wife, and is carrying Tyan-yu’s baby.
Lindo manages to convince Huang Taitai by arguing that the marriage is rotten, offering as proof an empty spot in her mouth where a tooth fell out, and a mole on Tyan-yu’s back.
Everyone is happy, and Lindo gets enough money to go to America.
Today, she wears many twenty-four carat gold bracelets to remind her of her worth.
Once a year, however, she takes off all her bracelets to feel the lightness come back into her body and remind herself of the day she learned to follow a genuine thought.
When Lindo goes to America, she has a daughter named Waverly. Lindo teaches Waverly about the "art of invisible strength," which, as it turns out, is a useful skill for winning at chess.
Lindo likes to hover and give useless advice as Waverly gets better and better at the game.
On one weekly trip to the market, Waverly gets fed up and yells at her mother, alleging that these shopping trips are just to show her off. At the end of their feud, Waverly can no longer play chess well.
Lindo says that in America, she has had to hide her true identity.
She learned all sorts of strategies for getting into, and staying in, this country. (i.e., always say you want to study religion)
Lindo went to work at a fortune cookie factory, where she met An-mei.
An-mei brought Lindo to church with her and set her up with a man named Tin Jong.
Although they spoke separate dialects, Lindo and Tin eventually married.
When Lindo gave birth to Waverly, she suddenly grew dissatisfied with her life and wanted everything to be better for Waverly.
Lindo notes that on a recent trip to China, everyone could tell she was no longer Chinese. She wonders what she has lost in order to stay in America, and what she has gained.