Growing up on their hardscrabble farm in rural Kentucky, fifteen-year-old Albertina "Bertie" Winslow has learned a lot from her mama, Polly. She knows how to lance a boil, make a pie crust, butcher a pig, and tend to every chore that needs doing. What she doesn't know, but is forced to reckon with all too soon, is how to look after children as a mother should . . . When Polly succumbs to a long illness, Bertie takes on responsibility for her four younger siblings and their dissolute, unreliable daddy. Yet no matter how hard she tries to hold the family together, the task is overwhelming. Nine-year-old Dacia, especially, is resentful and stubborn, hinting at secrets in their mama's life. Finally, Bertie makes the only choice she can-breaking up the family for its own survival, keeping the girls with her, sending the boys off to their grown brothers, long gone from home. Ever pragmatic, Bertie marries young, grateful to find a husband willing to take on the care of her sisters, and eventually moves to the oil fields of Kansas. But marriage alone cannot resolve the grief and guilt she carries over a long-ago tragedy, or prepare her for the heartaches still to come. Only by confronting wrenching truths can she open herself to joy-and learn how to not only give, but receive, unfettered love.