Tom, a Chinese Australian man in his early forties, writes about his childhood. We see the story unfold as he does. It is 1964. Tom's mother, Rose Hong, a beautiful and glamorous Shanghai nightclub singer, meets Bill, an Australian sailor, and migrates to Victoria with her two children, Tom and May. However, their marriage is short-lived and Rose and her children move to Sydney, where she spends the next seven years working in Chinese restaurants.In 1971, Rose, May and Tom return to the outer suburbs of Melbourne to live with Bill. Rose and Bill are attempting to reconcile. Much to her chagrin, Rose learns that Bill's mother Norma also lives in Bill's house. When Bill is called away by the Navy, a battle ensues between the two women for control of the house, a battle which Norma eventually wins, kicking Rose and her children out.