Set in China in 1937, Madame Wu, on her 40th birthday decides to end her conjugal relationship with her husband and insists that he take a second wife. Her decision throws the family--one of the oldest in China--into an uproar. but she manages the transition as she does everything else in the extended family of over sixty relatives. Alone in her own quarters, she enjoys her new-found freedom and reads books denied her in the past. When her son begins English lessons, she too starts learning from the free-thinking missionary named Brother Andre, who changes her life when he falls in love with her.