China, 1900. Xiaoxiao, a girl of about 12, comes to a mountain village for an arranged marriage with a two-year-old boy, Chunguan. Strict clan rules govern all behaviors. She becomes her husband's nanny (he calls her "sister"). Soon, Huagou, a local peasant, takes notice of Xiaoxiao, singing suggestive songs as they work and sending her compliments via the boy. At about the same time, Xiaoxiao sees "girl students" in the nearby town: young women her age who have friends who are boys, who read, who experience freedom. Xiaoxiao and Huagou begin a passionate affair, and, to her horror, she gets pregnant. Does death at the hands of the clan elders await her, or sale into slavery?