For twenty years, Anna Bouverie has been the dutiful wife of a village rector, scraping by on his pitiful salary, making cakes for the church bake sales, ironing her husband's surplices, and clothing herself and her children in hand-me-downs. But when an expected promotion to archdeacon falls through, her husband retreats into bitterness.
Faced with isolation, the lost hope of a better life, and the bullying of her daughter at school, Anna finally rebels. She takes a job in a supermarket, earning money and a sense of her own worth, along the disapproval of the parish and the icy fury of her husband. At the same time, she is observed with passionate interest by three men, each of whom plays a role in the part-tragic, part-triumphant blossoming of her life.