Debra Quakerneck, an average 30 something social worker, has just lost her husband to infidelity (a sexual affair with her sister!) when she meets Mieke Adams, an elderly woman with a lust for life, an admiration for the Japanese culture, and a lifetime of stories to share.
Mieke's distinctive Zen garden is the setting for the women to learn about each other and their pasts. Mieke relays stories of her childhood and gives Debra four gifts (a geisha mask, a bamboo rod, a model sailboat, and a porcelain Buddha figurine) bearing profound meaning -- these help Debra through her troubles, the worst being the death of a little girl she causes in a car accident.
Out of the women's friendship, a familial connection is uncovered and a genealogical search begins. Debra must follow her leads to Japan, where she discovers her kinship to Dutch and English sailors who first arrived in Japan in the 1600s -- and the people she has come to learn through the tales of the older women in her life.
This report prepared by Anethea Veenman-Hodges