Yan Ni is a 23-year-old girl who looks paler and more mature than other girls her age. She has changed her name but is still unable to clear away the memories about the nightmarish disaster of her youth. She always reflects in her mind that there is a little boy growing up somewhere in the world, whom she had given birth to.
Yan Ni thinks herself unwanted and redundant. She lives with her widowed grandmother and divorced auntie. Her childhood had been full of the complaints of the two women. They are both bad-tempered and it seems that they dislike her parents. The constantly vent their discontentment of life upon the little girl. Her parents are far away from Beijing and she seldom sees them, only receiving an allowance from them regularly.
She only knows that her mother was one of the young students from the cities forced to live in the countryside where she worked with peasants in a particular historical period of China.
When she was Yan Ni's age she had been to HeiLongjian province and married Yan Ni's father; a peasant there. She subsequently settled in the countryside but sent YanNi back to Beijing after her birth.
Yan Ni is eight. In the winter she meets her mother with her auntie in the Beijing railway station, where her mother transfers the train. She hands the money to Yan Ni's auntie, without a glance towards her daughter. Yan Ni feels the strangeness and the indifference of that woman, whom she does not call "Mom". She grows silent and withdrawn, always quiet in the public, keeping a distance from others.
On the first day of her college life, she meets a young transport driver called MuYu who drives her to the dormitory and arranges every trifle for her.