After being called back to her childhood home of Toronto for a retrospective show of her art, Elaine reminisces about her childhood. At the age of eight she becomes friends with Carol and Grace, and, through their eyes, realises that her atypical background of constant travel with her entomologist father and independent mother has left her ill-equipped for conventional expectations of femininity. The next year, when Cordelia joins the group, Elaine is bullied by the three girls, her supposed "best friends". The bullying escalates that winter when the girls throw Elaine's hat into a ravine and abandon her half-frozen outside in the snow; Elaine sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, who guides her to safety. Afterward, realizing she had allowed herself to be a victim, Elaine makes new friends. During her high school years, Elaine reestablishes a friendship with Cordelia, although Elaine is much tougher now than she was as a child and often taunts Cordelia. The two girls lose touch with one another after high school.
The narrative then follows Elaine through her teenage years and her early adulthood as an art student and a Feminist artist. However, throughout this time, she is haunted by her childhood and has difficulties forming relationships with other women.
Towards the end of the novel, owing to her retrospective exhibition and her return to Toronto, she eventually faces her past and gets closure.