The Stone Angel is the story of Hagar Shipley, an elderly and ailing woman who rails against the efforts of her community to put her in a nursing home. Hagar, a citizen of Manitoba in Canada, was born in the late 1800s and lived through much of the province's turbulent history. As she contemplates her death, symbolized by the nursing home, she takes time to reflect back on the many events she has experienced.
In a series of vignettes, The Stone Angel tells the story of Hagar Shipley, a 90-year-old woman struggling to come to grips with a life of intransigence and loss. The themes of pride and the prejudice that comes from social class recur in the novel.
As a young girl she refuses to rock her dying brother in the garment's of their mother. As as a young woman she marries against her father's wishes, severing the family ties. She shows favoritism towards her younger son, John. After Hagar separates from her husband, John comes with her. However, he ultimately returns to his father. When John dies, Hagar does not cry, and at that point, she turns into a "Stone Angel".
Later in life, her eldest son Martin is shown to have been the good and loyal son all along, despite the lack of his mother's favor. As a 90 year old woman, Hagar goes on an expected adventure into the woods alone. Given her age, there is a overtone that this even will be the last chapter of her life. In the woods, she meets another wanderer. The two have a bonding conversation, where Hagar finally opens up. A lifetime of buried emotion comes out, and she finally cries. The next day the police and Martin come to rescue Hagar from the woods.
In an act of love and repentance, she confesses to Martin that he was the better son. It is unclear whether she dies at the end of the novel.