Paula Spencer tells her own story of falling in love with Charlo, a bad boy, and her early married days of complete devotion and bliss. The present, however, is far less romantic. Mother to four children, a single parent of a year, Paula learns that her estranged spouse has been killed by the Garda, having murdered a bank manager's wife. The detail that upsets her the most, is not his death, but the fact that the woman's autopsy revealed that he had slapped her face twice. That gesture opens up a chasm of past abuse that Paula recounts matter-of-factly until she leads up to the day that her husband considered beating their own daughter. That was the tipping point for Paula.
Doyle creates tremendous sympathy and writes a convincing portrait of this working class woman who endured years of spousal abuse because she believed her husband still loved her.