After the end of the Vietnam War, Van wakes up one morning to find that her mother, sisters, and brother are gone. They have escaped the new communist regime that has taken over Ho Chi Minh City for freedom in the West. Van is too young–and her grandmother too old–for such a dangerous journey by boat, so the two have been left behind. Once settled in North America, her parents will be able to sponser them, and Van and her grandmother will fly away to safety. But in the meantime, Van is forced ot work hard to satisfy her aunt and uncle, who treat her like an unwelcome guest. And at school she must learn that calling attention to herself is a mistake, especially when the bully who has been tormenting her turns out to be the son of a military policeman.