NADINE’s daughter, CAROLYN, who witnessed a marriage cursed by one of society’s most widespread crimes: domestic violence, tells her story. Hopkinsville, Kentucky is a home to a diverse community where an innocent girl like Nadine could grow up proud of her Native American and African American heritage. She never experienced violence in her home until she married CHARLES HUNTER, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Campbell. Nadine was so blinded by his charming ways and the experience of first love that the early signs of trouble, jealousy, and possessiveness, were invisible to her.
After returning from Vietnam, Charles’s behavior magnified with violent outburst and heavy drinking that led to Nadine enduring cycles of abuse, repeated marital rape and brutal battery. One night, Nadine suffers an unmerciful beating. Charles drags her out onto the porch, goes back inside, and locks the door behind him. Broken and bruised, she crawls to a neighbor’s house. The woman calls Nadine’s sister to come get her. Her sister finally sees the evidence of abuse that she had always suspected. She takes Nadine to the hospital where she is admitted for her injuries. Once she’s released from the hospital, her family discourages her from returning home. Nadine’s mother later picks the children up and brings them to their house to be with Nadine.
During her stay with her family, Nadine feels displaced, longing for home. Plus, Charles and his mother make her feel guilty for keeping the children away from their father. Charles rents a farmhouse in Clarksville, Tennessee, near his parents and convinces Nadine that he has changed, so she returns. Not long after isolating her from her family, the abuse resumed; worse than before. She conforms to subservient behavior, trying to do everything right to prevent upsetting Charles. She feels like a prisoner in her own home. She doesn’t know how to get help or how to find a safe place to hide. Somewhere he can’t find her, since he has threaten to kill her if she leaves again.
Nadine’s life takes a drastic turn the day Charles comes home and finds a salesman’s business card on the end table. The thought of another man in his house drives him into a jealous rage. He punishes Nadine with a never-ending beating, making death a foregone conclusion in her mind. She has to stop him. She grabs a knife and stabs him, bringing him to his knees. She doesn’t stop. She’s lost in her memories of previous abuse. When the children walk in, Nadine drops the knife in remorse, realizing what she is doing, but it’s too late. Her husband lie lifeless on the kitchen floor.
After killing Charles, things are not easier for her as a judge and jury ignore her pleas for freedom and finds her guilty of murder. Nadine is damned to spend the next fifteen years behind bars fighting off bullies and sexual advances from guards and other inmates. Her request for an appeal is disregarded. The hope of getting out of prison looks grim until the day LINFRED CARTER, a defense attorney, takes her case pro bono. He hears about Nadine through a mutual friend and is convinced Nadine didn’t receive a proper defense. Over the time it takes to build her appeals case, Linfred believes Nadine’s story and realizes she isn’t just an offender, but a victim. He fights until he wins her freedom. Once he wins her appeals case, he’s just as determine to win her heart.
Now that Nadine is free, she attempts to pick up the pieces of her life in an unforgiving society, find a job, a place of her own, and get her children back from her vengeful in-laws. Linfred is right there for her, but she needs to let go of the past and open herself up to a love she’s never had before she can let him in. The day of the custody hearing, Linfred is injured in a car accident on his way to the courthouse. Nadine realizes she loves him as she rushes to be by his side, but she’s afraid to show it. She doesn’t believe she deserves happiness, including a loving relationship with Linfred. But he doesn’t give up on her.
Nadine gradually rekindles her bond with her children despite the in-laws’ efforts to stop her. But it isn’t until the children run away that she discovers they had suffered abuse at the hands of the mother-in-law, which makes it easier for Nadine to be granted reunification. Now that she has the children, Linfred is able to show her and the children what a normal life will be like.