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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The narrative pattern adopted by the author is as follows:
The prime narrator is Winnie Louie whose narration forms the major bulk-Chapters 3 to 24. The initial Chapters 1 and 2 and the Chapter preceding the concluding Chapter, that is, chapter 25, are narrated by her daughter Pearl Louie Brandt. Winnie Louie narrates the final chapter and this maintains the compactness of the novel. The technique of media res is seen in the story of Winnie’s life, which is narrated, through flashbacks.
Chapter 1 & 2
The telephonic conversation between mother, Winnie Louie, and her daughter, Pearl Louie Brandt, informs the reader about the engagement party of a Kwong member, Roger. Roger and Pearl are cousins, and therefore Winnie persuades her daughter to come to the party with her family. The mother, Winnie, lives of San Francisco which is quite far from San Jose where Pearl and her husband Phil reside with their young daughters Tessa and Cleo. Though she is initially reluctant, Pearl arrives at her mother’s place with her family.
Winnie and Auntie Helen jointly own the "Ding Ho Flower Shop." In order to help her mother with the funeral arrangements, Pearl visits the flower shop. It is a neat little place, well stocked with bouquets and wreaths. Winnie cherishes each and every article of her flower shop. The scent of the flowers fills up the entire place. Though Grand Auntie Du is Helen’s aunt, it is Winnie who takes the initiative and makes preparations for the funeral. This is because she is the one who had been looking after Auntie Du for many years.
Later, at the banquet, Pearl and Phil do not seem to be comfortable with the Kwongs. One notices the difference between Mary (Helen’s daughter) who is a pretentious lady wearing heavy make-up and Pearl who is very down-to-earth. It was Mary who had introduced Pearl to Phil, thus leading to their marriage. The most intolerable trait in Mary is that she is unable to keep things to herself. In their earlier years of marriage, Pearl had confided in Mary but she had betrayed Pearl’s trust in her. Even now Mary knows Pearl’s secret, that she suffers from multiple sclerosis. This is because her husband, Doug is a doctor. Mary has passed over the news of Pearl’s illness to her mother, Helen.