At an early age, An-mei Hsu learns lessons in stoic and severe love from her grandmother, Popo, and from her mother. Her mother also teaches her to swallow her tears, to conceal her pain, and to distrust others. Although An-mei later learns to speak up and assert herself, she fears that she has handed down a certain passivity to her daughter Rose.

An-mei sees “fate” as what one is “destined” to struggle toward achieving. When her youngest child Bing dies, An-mei ceases to express any outward faith in God, but retains her belief in the force of will. Rose initially believed that the death had caused her mother to lose faith altogether, but she eventually realizes that she may have misinterpreted her mother’s behaviors.