The book begins as Juvenal Urbino comes upon the body of an old friend and chess partner, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour. Jeremiah had killed himself at the age of sixty to avoid growing old. Upon returning home, Urbino falls to his death after trying to retrieve the household parakeet from the branches of a mango tree, leaving his wife, Fermina Daza, a widow. After the funeral, Florentino Ariza approaches Fermina Daza and declares once more his vow of everlasting love. She is furious at him and orders him out of the house. The novel then flashes back and relates the intertwining stories of Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza, and Juvenal Urbino, following Fermina and Florentino from childhood to old age. As children, they had had a short and intense epistolary romance. After Fermina returns from a trip to her hometown, she recognizes her relationship with Florentino as naïve and is filled with disenchantment. She rejects him, leaving him obsessed and sick with love. The middle of the novel tracks both of their lives: Florentino Ariza harbors an all-consuming obsession for Fermina Daza. He intends to stay a virgin until they are together again, but soon finds himself using sex to mitigate the pain of their separation, engaging in 622 affairs. Fermina Daza, forced by her father Lorenzo, marries Juvenal Urbino at the age of twenty-one and becomes a respectable wife to him. The novel then returns to the beginning when Juvenal Urbino dies and Florentino Ariza repeats his vow. They resume an exchange of letters, building a stronger relationship than the first. The novel ends when Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza are on a river voyage together and find themselves in love. Fermina fears the scandal this will bring, so the Captain of the ship raises the yellow flag of cholera, dooming them to exile but also to be together forever.