When an explosion reverberates through the Swan Hotel in Shanghai, it is not just shards of glass and rubble that come crashing down. Li Jing and Zhou Meiling find their once-happy marriage rocked to its foundations. For Li Jing, his head pierced by a shard of falling glass, awakens from brain surgery only able to utter the faltering phrases of the English he learnt as a child – a language that Meiling and their young song Pang Pang cannot speak. When an American neurologist arrives, tasked with teaching Li Jing to speak fluently again, she is as disorientated as her patient in this bewitching, bewildering city. As doctor and patient grow closer, feelings neither of them anticipated begin to take hold. Feelings that Meiling, who must fight to keep both her husband's business and her family afloat, does not need a translator to understand.