The story segues 10 or 11 years into the future and Marian is now married to Ben and they have a young daughter, Johanna. Ben is a successful journalist on a Dublin paper and the couple has settled into a comfortable middle class life. Their spirited daughter is learning about the heritage of both of her parents as she is not accepted by either. Then, one day, as mother and daughter arrive home, they see a person in the uniform of a nurse scurrying away from their mail box. At first Marian tries to discount this persons appearance at their home to Johanna, but as she reads the note left by 'Nurse,' a simple and slow-witted woman from the Mother Baby Home, she learns that her son Adrian was not adopted to a rich American family and in fact sill resides at a near by orphanage where he is badly treated.
Thus begins the fight to regain possession of her son, but she must fight the Catholic nuns who shun the child's mixed blood, but alternately wish to profit from returning him to his family. Ben is lukewarm to the idea, even though he loves his son, and doesn’t want the boy to interfere with his perfect family, especially his cherished daughter.
As Marian learns more deeply the extent of the abuses the children undergo in the home, she becomes more determined to regain her son, but Adrian, happy to have a family, and especially happy to have a little sister, has a hard time adapting to the world around him.
The story is narrated, and it is probably 80% narration which works very well for this story, is gut wrenching as it details Marian's struggle not only with the nuns and brothers at the orphanage, but with the legal and social system that seems to want to throw her son away. She also must struggle with her husband to gather her son back into their family. When Adrian graduates to an “industrial school” and is surrounded by deeper and more permanent cruelties, sexual abuse at the hands of the brothers and the other young boys, he is seemingly deserted by the laws and society the fight becomes desperate.