This is the story of Christine. When she is twelve years old, she witnesses her parents having sex. The same day, she is raped by her father, a man who has always been cold and distant to her and who treats her as though she isn’t even there. Her mother gets very ill shortly thereafter and passes away. Christine blames herself for her mother’s illness and death. Before Christine’s mother dies, she asks Christine if she can rename her Lena, inspired by the odd, new lean Christine has adopted in her posture. Unbeknownst to her, the lean is caused by an injury during the father’s rape of Christine. Christine agrees to the name.
Once her mother dies, her father, Reid Brown, abandons her to the care of her godmother, leaves the country, and returns to Jamaica, where he grew up. The godmother is embittered by her own inability to have children and an over-reliance on religion to fill that void. She eventually pushes Lena away.
Lena turns her back on her and on her father’s family as well. The memories and associations are simply too hard.
Eventually, the unresolved issues and her secret start to negatively impact her marriage, and she is forced to confront them in order to get her life back on track. In reconnecting with her godmother and her father’s family, she learns that Reid was not actually her father after all. She also forgives her godmother, who apologizes to her before she dies of stomach cancer.
Going exclusively by her real name, Christine, again, Christine and her husband travel to Jamaica to confront the man she thought was her father, but she ends up avoiding the confrontation. Instead, Christine and her husband, Vincent, come to terms with the rest of their lingering issues and grow closer as a couple.