Years of believing her child died so long ago have left a hole in her heart. Agnes also blames herself for her mother abandoning the family while Agnes was a teenager. As the story unfolds, Agnes begins to believe that the child is alive and that her mother orchestrated a terrible deception.
Over a long summer, Agnes tries to heal her relationship with her father Clayton, a retired forest ranger. He is forced to move from the family home in the Cascade Mountains when the Park Service decides to close the historic station. Agnes meets Hunter, an outdoorsman who studies bears, with whom she begins a relationship. She also befriends Rion, a café owner, who offers her moral support. Fed up with her father’s drinking and refusal to help with the move, Agnes heads back to Montana as the winter approaches.
Months later, after her father has a heart attack, she returns to Washington to finally relocate him to a small cabin. Hunter tracks a grizzly bear in the back country. Eventually, he is found dead in the snow due to exposure. Agnes learns that her friend Rion is fighting breast cancer. She also uncovers the truth that her mother kept her baby and raised him.
In this beautiful but forbidding wilderness, Agnes finds herself again through connecting with nature, her father, and new friends. As the story closes, Agnes finds answers to the questions that have plagued her, and, with them, closure and redemption.