Meimei becomes interested in chess when her brother gets a chess set for Christmas.
Vincent is given a used chess set at a church Christmas party. It was a donation, and is missing pieces. Their mother tells him to throw it away, but they immediately begin playing with it. Meimei is enthralled.
The chessboard seemed to hold elaborate secrets waiting to be untangled. The chessmen were more powerful than old Li's magic herbs that cured ancestral curses. And my brothers wore such serious faces that I was sure something was at stake ….
As she watches her brother play, Meimei is enthralled. Chess is mysterious and exciting to her. Her brothers refuse to let her play until she offers up Life Savers to replace the missing pieces. The winner got to eat them! She asks Vincent a lot of questions at first, but he teaches her how to play. Curious to know more, she looks up everything else in the library.
She loves the “secrets” of chess, and the advantage that knowing more than your opponent gives you. Before long, she will become a chess prodigy.
One of the most important elements of the story is that once you find something you love, it sets you free. Meimei enjoyed chess, and loved being good at it. It made her an individual and gave her something to be proud of.