All The Forgivenesses tells the story of what happens to an impoverished rural family when the mother dies young and an adolescent daughter is left to fill her shoes. Bertie is a wounded child who is grieved and then embittered by her burdens despite her closeness to her siblings, and she isn’t given what she needs to learn to process grief, anger, guilt—or even love. When she cannot hold the family together, she assumes a burden of shame already heavy from a childhood tragedy and from her unquestioning acceptance of her mother’s punitive brand of Calvinism. Ever pragmatic, Bertie marries young and considers herself lucky to have found a gentle and creative, albeit restless, husband. But she discovers that marriage cannot resolve her inner struggles, and more losses loom in her attempt to gain fulfillment in motherhood. Only when confronted with the deep spiritual and physical needs of three damaged children does Bertie face her fears and learn how uncomplicated it can be to deserve, and give, unfettered love.