In 1923, Mei Ling’s older sister falls gravely ill a few days before her arranged marriage to a man she has never met. Mei Ling is forced to take her’s sister place. Leaving her family in China, Mei Ling travels to America. In order to enter the country, Mei Ling must assume the identity of the man’s deceased wife, essentially using her immigration documents as her own (a “Paper Wife”).
When Mei Ling befriends a young orphan girl on the ship to America, little did she know that she was creating a bond for life. When it is Mei Ling’s turn to leave Angel Island (the unfriendly place where immigrants were housed until their entry application was approved) she is forced to leave Siew behind. Making good on her promise to see Siew again, Mei Ling searches for the child to ensure that she is safe, only to find that Siew’s Uncle wasn’t who he appeared to be, and that Siew herself was a paper child. This dark revelation has a damaging impact on Mei Ling and her family, who must fight to overcome the reality of Siew’s situation.