When she loses her job and her lover in one fell swoop, art history professor Rose Ming agrees to accompany her mother on an annual visit to relatives in her Chinese hometown of Three Rivers. Once there, Rose learns that she, her mother, aunt, and her cousin, Hong-Mei, have all shared a strange dream prompting them to search for an ancestor nobody seems to remember. With her future uncertain, Rose decides to solve the family mystery, and instead unearths an unutterable tragedy hidden for over a hundred years.Living in the last decades of the Qing dynasty, Peony, Lady Han, has every material comfort, a doting husband, and two beautiful children. With so much to share, she decides to adopt Jasmine, the daughter of her devoted maidservant, A-mei, giving her the advantages of a comfortable upbringing. But while Peony's daughter, Iris, embraces Jasmine as a sister, the new addition to the family has deeper repercussions throughout both families, altering more than one future. And when Rose discovers the true history of the Han and Wang families, including their unbearable losses, she learns the meaning of love, friendship, family, faith, and the sacrifices people are willing to pay to achieve them, a lesson that allows her to face her own future with new courage.