The novel is a first person account of a woman who is breaking silence about several aspects of her life and the history she lived through. As the narrator, the adult Naomi is facing the death of her uncle Isamu, and Obasan feels it is time that Naomi read Emily's parcel full of factual auger In other words, it is time to deal with the past. But Naomi's response is peculiar. She describes personal memories and childhood experiences that seem to have no place in the story's political commitment. As a result, reading time jumps from the present death of her uncle to points in the past, beginning with herself as a quiet little girl losing her mother.