In the first chapter of Monkey Bridge, Mai is at Arlington Hospital in Virginia, three years after leaving Saigon. The year is 1978, and Mai's mother, Thanh, is recuperating from a stroke; Thanh is a patient at the hospital.
The stroke has left Thanh with a blood clot in her brain, and she often experiences nightmares and hallucinations due to the hemorrhaging that she suffered. In the chapter, Mai and her best friend, Bobbie, are visiting with Thanh. Although Thanh is making a slow but steady recovery, Mai is distressed that her mother often calls out for her father, Baba Quan, in her sleep.
Thanh and Baba Quan were supposed to meet at a rendezvous point on the 30th of April in 1975, where a car was to take them to an American plane. However, Baba Quan never appeared, and Thanh had been forced to leave for America without him. Mai knows that her mother still grieves for the father she left behind, so she resolves that she and Bobbie won't rest until they find a way to bring her grandfather to America.