Tough and lonely, Violet is an eccentric woman whose years of accumulated hardship finally catch up with her at the age of fifty-six. Violet was raised by her mother, Rose Dear, in Vienna, Virginia, as one of five children. Her father would leave the family for long stretches of time and when the family's belongings were repossessed, Violet's mother committed suicide by throwing herself down a well. When Violet married Joe Trace, she sought to escape the hard-knocks lifestyle of her childhood by moving to the City. Neither she nor Joe had wanted children, but as Violet grows older, she begins to feel a deep longing for something to love. Her relationship with Joe becomes strained when she falls into depression. When she finds out that Joe has cheated on her with Dorcas, Violet projects all of her anger, sadness and frustration by slashing Dorcas's face at her funeral as she lies in her open casket. In the months that follow, Violet searches for peace and longs to heal herself and her marriage, discovering, finally, that she has to "make it" by taking ownership of her happiness and refusing to be a victim.