Lily is from an upper middle class family where the traditions of foot binding, arranged marriages, and the total sequestering of women is a way of life. Their value is only in how advantageous a marriage they can enter into. The matchmaker begins her work years before marriage is possible. First she must examine all Lily's omens, celestial signs and zodiac portents to find Snow Flower, the perfect 'sworn sister' for her. They begin a lifelong friendship meant to carry them through all their life long. Each follows all the customs and traditions expected of them, but their paths diverge. Lily is married into a wealthy family while Snow Flower is matched to a butcher, a profession deemed unclean in their society. Their friendship hits rocky patches and leaves Lily bewildered as to what is happening. She must re-evaluate her life as a woman in feudal China. All in all a very good read. Be warned, the passages dealing with foot binding might be too graphic for some readers.