While gridlocked in the churchyard of a small Irish town, the traffic frozen in place for the funeral of a young mother and her infant, an unbidden thought comes to Frances Moon. "I lost a baby when I was 19." She is surprised by how easily the long-suppressed memory slips into her consciousness, and by her own voice as she speaks the thought aloud to Ian, her partner of 20 years. The next morning, Ian is gone.
Numbed by abandonment, Frances sets out for the small town in Canada where she grew up - and where she began to make many poor choices. The novel flashes back to Frances as a curious, imaginative, and well-loved little girl who begins to lose herself once forced from her family's idyllic farm and into school. As she withdraws, only two people offer comfort: Dooley Sullivan, a prankster, and Silas Chance, an Indian who works at the lumberyard, and the Moon family's new tenant. Silas dies violently, the victim of a hit-and-run. And at the site there is evidence the driver stopped but did not help. In such a small town with the usual racial prejudices, the case is never solved. But years later, on the evening of her marriage, Frances remembers who the driver was.