On hearing that Jackser, her childhood abuser, is seriously ill, Martha is elated, thinking that finally she will be able to watch him suffer.
But in the hospital she sees a frightened, lonely old man and realises with a shock that he seems to regret his earlier actions. During her vigil, she is joined by Charlie, her beloved little brother, then the ma and some of her other siblings.
All of them have suffered greatly and it is clear that no one connected to Jackser has escaped unscathed. But as she sits with him during his dying days, other memories of Jackser come back to Martha - fleeting moments of concern and kindness, and a sense of closeness as he recalled his own tormented past in one of Ireland's industrial schools.
It is a vicious cycle of cruelty and loss that has played out, from which only her own tenacity and wit has provided an escape. Poignant, ribald, poetic and defiant, with its resolution of many unanswered questions about her life this is Martha at her best.