The year is 1883. China is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. In the countryside, antagonism against foreigners and missionaries is growing and the warlords are at large. Li Ling, a young peasant girl in China, flees to Malaya to escape being made a concubine to a warlord, only to find herself tricked into becoming a second wife to a rich man with sadistic tendencies. Her life becomes intertwined with that of her rescuer, Shao Peng, in a Malaya that is rapidly transforming under British rule. A Flash of Water follows New Beginnings and together with Sweet Offerings and Bitter-Sweet Harvest forms a quadrilogy, which traces the lives of one family against the turbulent political, economic and social changes in China and Malaya. The books are complete in themselves.