Libby Day, the novel's narrator and protagonist, is the sole survivor of a massacre in Kinnakee, Kansas, a fictional rural town. After witnessing the murders of her two sisters and mother, in what appears to be a Satanic cult ritual, she escapes through a window and later testifies in court against her teenage brother.
Twenty-five years after the massacre, Libby, in need of money, meets with a group of amateur investigators who believe that her brother is innocent of the crime. At their coaxing, she meets her brother, Ben for the first time, but is not convinced that he didn't do it. She also meets with her father, now homeless, but is not convinced he played a part in it either. Through her investigation, she learns of her brother's secret girlfriend, as well as accusations against him for child molestation.
Interspersed with the modern day investigation are flashbacks to the day of the massacre. These flashbacks are told from the points of view of Libby's mother, Patty, and her convicted brother, Ben. Patty's viewpoints discuss the difficulties of trying to keep the family farm while raising four children alone; Ben tells the story of a troubled teenager as he falls in with a bad crowd. These viewpoints paint a picture of a grim life of desperate poverty, marital abuse and abandonment that characterize life on the farm prior to the murder.
Review contains spoilers.