The novel is comprised of stories passed from one generation of women to the next, which strengthen each with significant lessons in relevant phases of her life.
The journey begins with two unwitting women, Debra Quakerneck and Mieke Adams, who meet one another through a community center. Debra had just lost her husband to infidelity (a sexual affair with her sister!) when she meets Mieke: an elderly woman with a lust for life, an admiration for the Japanese culture, and a lifetime of stories to share.
Mieke's distinctive Zen garden furnishes the stage for kindred spirits to play out a drama of broken hearts, lost relatives, and the long road to healing.
Out of the women's friendship, a mysterious connection arises by which Debra and Mieke must follow the path to the 1600's, where they discover their kinship to Dutch and English sailors who first arrived in Japan.
The reader is taken to New York, early 1900’s, where a cobblestone road leads to an art gallery and an American-Japanese woman of English descent reveals the first sign of truth about the sailors’ outcome.
The future is set in motion for Debra and Mieke.
Continuing through to World War II, the stories told by Debra’s grandmother, Siska, and Mieke’s good friend, Anne, allow the reader to explore the triumph of the surviving women held captive in Japanese POW camps.
Coming to shore in the twentieth century, the reader sets foot on the sands of self-discovery, compassion, forgiveness and spirit, the ingredients that bind each and every one of the characters together.
With the past as her guide, Debra steers ahead into the future with newfound love for her husband, forgiveness for her sister, bonding with a relative she never knew she had, and a wisdom she carries on even after the death of dearest friend.
Within the novel are four gifts Mieke passes on to Debra. The Geisha mask signifies Identity: Debra must learn to see forgiveness in herself. The bamboo stick indicates overcoming one's pain. Will she surpass the hurt and heartaches in her life?
The model sailboat, De Liefde, is representative of Dutch and Japanese history, based on Buddhist concept of waters joining to form the sea. Finally, the ivory Buddha statue foreshadows the surpassing of one's life into the next...overcoming death.
AWG is a story of self-discovery by way of passing knowledge on to others, bonding and human response to kindred spirits. Identification is like the sea that declines no water no matter what its source, therefore all waters gathering to form the sea.