Though outwardly successful, young Anne Christie's prominent midwestern coal-mining family is deeply troubled - Anne especially. While growing up during the late 1950s, Anne becomes convinced that her mother hates her. Emotionally isolated at home, she seeks love and approval in the arms of the many men who pursue her. As she embarks on a journey that will take her to New York in pursuit of a modeling career, Anne doesn't dream that one day her past will come back to haunt her.
When Anne meets and marries Billy Kane, a jazz musician with an explosive personality, her mother makes it known that she does not approve. Anne and Billy move to the suburbs with their young children, but when Anne discovers that there are other women in Billy's life, the marriage disintegrates. Seeking a new romantic attachment in 1970, Anne immerses herself in Manhattan's wild singles scene. After two years she tires of this lifestyle and comes home to her children and the young man she will eventually marry. But though Anne works hard to create a stable life for her family, her painful relationship with her mother keeps interfering.
As she attempts to unearth her true identity, Anne explores love, motherhood, and middle age and finds a new life at the center of a series of personal losses.