Chiaki lives in Japan. Her father has died and she has to deal with her grief alone, as her mother is too distracted to help her. Old Mrs Yanagi is the landlady at Poplar House where Chiaki goes to live, and their relationship develops through the book. Mrs Yanagi tells her that she has been given a divine mission to carry letters to the dead when she herself dies, so Chiaki starts writing letters to her father. Through the story, we learn about daily life in a Japanese household.
As Chiaki grows up, she has to come to terms with how her father really died, and work through her confusion about who she is to make a decision about her future.