We get a flashback to when Waverly was a little girl.
She and her family live in San Francisco’s Chinatown, above a bakery.
Waverly is named for their address: Waverly Place.
She is the youngest of the family and the only daughter.
During the annual Christmas party at First Chinese Baptist Church, Waverly’s older brother receives an old chess set.
Waverly rapidly becomes obsessed with the game, learning all the rules and strategies.
Soon she begins playing an old man in the park, who mentors her.
Someone suggests she enters a local competition, and Waverly is on her way to multiple successes.
By the time she is nine, she is featured in Life magazine as a child prodigy.
Waverly’s annoyance builds as her mother recommends silly strategies and hovers over her as she practices.
Waverly no longer has to do the dishes, sleep in the room next to the street, or finish her food.
She cannot, however, avoid accompanying her mother to market.
On one such trip, Waverly gets fed up and yells at her mother, alleging that these shopping trips are just to show her off.
Waverly runs away.
When she comes home, she dreams of a chess match against her mother.
The flashback ends.
In the present, Waverly takes her mother out to lunch. Her mother complains the entire time.
Waverly gives up on the idea of telling her mother an important bit of news: that she plans on marrying Rich Schields.
After lunch, Waverly takes her mom back to her apartment. It’s clear that Rich has moved in with Waverly and her daughter, Shoshana.
Waverly shows her mom a mink coat that Rich bought her for Christmas.
Her mother points out the coat’s flaws.
Waverly is hurt, but at the same time she sees the truths in her mother’s comments.
We flash back to the first time Waverly was seriously hurt by her mother.
Waverly is ten years old and determined to quit playing chess for a few days in order to hurt her mother.
After a week, she announces that she’s ready to begin playing again, but her mother tells her that it’s not so easy.
Waverly contracts chicken pox, and her mother looks after her.
Waverly is convinced that her mother is back to her usual self, but when it comes to Waverly’s chess playing, her mother no longer seems to care. Her mother no longer polishes her trophies, cuts out her newspaper clips, or hovers over her as she practices.
Waverly loses her next tournament, saying that she felt as though she had lost a magic armor, leaving her completely vulnerable to her opponents.
After a spell of time, Waverly stops playing altogether.
We return from the flashback. Waverly is talking to her friend Marlene on the phone.
Waverly describes her mother as having all these little sneaky attacks.
She’s afraid that amidst all her mother’s criticism, some truth will stick and alter all of her perceptions of Rich, the man she currently adores.
Waverly says that this happened with her first husband, Marvin.
All of Waverly’s mother’s criticisms rang true, and Waverly finally felt mere apathy towards Marvin.
Waverly had a daughter with Marvin named Shoshana.
Waverly says that the way she loves Shoshana is the way that Rich loves her – unequivocally and without wanting anything in return.
Finally she engineers a way for Rich to meet her mother.
Waverly and Rich eat dinner at Auntie Suyuan and Uncle Canning’s house, and in her thank-you card, Waverly writes that Rich thought it was the best Chinese food he had ever eaten.
Shortly after, a dinner invitation comes from Waverly’s mother.
By Waverly’s standards, the dinner goes terribly.
At the end of this debacle, Rich looks pathetic in Waverly’s eyes.
Waverly is furious, and decides to go give her mother a piece of her mind.
When she arrives at her parents’ house, Waverly finds her mother sleeping on the sofa, and for a terrible moment is afraid she’s died.
She then tells her mother that she’s marrying Rich, even though she knows her mother hates him.
Her mother is taken aback at this statement, and the two women have a heart to heart.
Finally, instead of a crabby old woman hell-bent on ruining her daughter’s life, Waverly sees her mother as an old woman who simply cares about her daughter.
Waverly, Rich, and Lindo plan to visit China together.
Later Waverly voices anxiety about blending in on the trip to China, which Lindo finds laughable.
Waverly takes her mother to the beauty parlor, to get her hair cut for the wedding.
Mr. Rory, the stylist, mentions that Waverly and Lindo look very similar.