Jing-Mei, or "June," has been worried about her journey to China because of the weight of her mother’s long-ago decision; learning that she had half-sisters was a momentous revelation. Her preconceptions of China include imagining both the country and her sisters in the distant past before her birth. She is surprised to realize that “Communist China” is not entirely composed of antiquated buildings and collective farms. The skyscrapers of Guangzhou and even the mini-bar supplies in their modern hotel are surprising to her. She experiences the sights as forgotten memories rather than as new visions, feeling the Chineseness inside her is emerging.
When she meets her sisters in Shanghai, she is initially shocked at the sight of them. She sees one of them first and at that instant thinks she sees her late mother. Then she sees the other and realizes that they are the twins. Jing-Mei had thought of them as the infants her mother abandoned, and sometimes as little girls, but never as women older than herself.