Mr. Lowe lives the simple and happy life of a shopkeeper. A Chinese immigrant to Jamaica in the 1890s, Lowe revels in the lush beauty of his adoptive land. But the past confronts Lowe in everything he does, and so his history reveals itself-the tale of his exile from China, his shipboard adventures, an unwanted pregnancy and the arrangement that was made to avoid scandal. The arrangement placed Lowe in a marriage of convenience with a mysterious widow, Miss Sylvie. Lowe and Sylvie's relationship is complex, vivid, erotic, and full of secrets. Sylvie is a light-skinned black woman who, in the course of their three decades together, gives up three dark-skinned children for adoption. But Lowe's secret is much more startling, and remarkable-Lowe is actually a woman who began cross-dressing to pass as a man because it was illegal for Chinese women to emigrate. This is the story of the destruction of a far-away world: the burning of Lowe's shop and the demolition of his masks; and the creation of a dream: the building of a pagoda where culture and the past are accepted and acceptable.