Kathy Kelly, born in the heart of Glasgow's tough East End Barras Market, is part of a family riven by favouritism and jealousies, by slights, real and imagined. She grows up with a sharp wit and quick temper, engaging in verbal warfare with those who cross her, her father, her grandmother, the local parish priest - Kathy Kelly takes no prisoners. But she copes, unlike her older brother Peter, who disappears as fast as he can.
When she reaches a crisis in her life, Kathy moves to the Western Highlands to start all over again. But family ties drag her back to Glasgow, where she is forced to look at things afresh, at past events and people she thought she knew so well, and eventually begin the search for her missing brother, a search which will result in an extraordinary, devastating discovery.