Talk about having it rough from the beginning. Ruth Anne "Bone" is born when her fifteen-year-old mother Anney goes through the windshield of a car in an accident.
Anney, being the tough girl she is, sleeps through the accident. Unfortunately she also sleeps through the making up of the birth certificate, and her mother and sister inadvertently reveal that Anney isn't married to the father—and aren't really sure of his name. So Bone is "certified a bastard by the state of South Carolina" (1.5).
Anney hates that Bone's birth certificate says "ILLEGITIMATE," thinking that it reinforces the idea of her family as trash. A year later Anney, goes into the courthouse to get a new birth certificate. The clerk brings out one that is identical to the first, eyeing her with judgment as he does, and Anney leaves without it.
Another year goes by and Anney, goes back to the courthouse with Aunt Ruth. They are met with the same result.
Next Anney meets Lyle Parsons, a sweet and pretty man, and marries him. She quits her job as a waitress at his request. Soon Anney is pregnant and has another daughter named Reese.
Lyle dies in a car accident when his truck goes off the road. Anney is nineteen at the time. After the funeral, her sister Ruth tells her that nothing else will ever hit her that hard, and that she is now as old as she's ever going to look.
When Reese is two years old, Anney picks up Bone's birth certificate paperwork and goes to a lawyer. The lawyer can't do anything about it, either. That's right, folks, the conflict isn't going to resolve itself in the first chapter.
Back working at the diner, Anney always has smiles and sharp wit for her customers, but they mask the pain she carries after Lyle's death.
Earl, Anney's brother, introduces Anney to a co-worker, Glen Waddell, bringing him to the diner one day. Glen is seventeen, and even though he comes from a relatively well-to-do family, he is nervous and doesn't seem like he'll amount to much.
Anney serves Glen some seriously good food, and Glen starts to feel like a man. Glen is polite to Anney when Earle is around, but when Earle's in the bathroom Glen stares at Anney lustfully. Glen wants to be tough and dangerous like Earle... and to shame his family by marrying into the Boatwright family. Talk about insecurity.
Meanwhile, on Anney's side of things, Anney looks back at Glen and sees that there's something off about him: his smile is crooked and his eyes bore into her. At the same time, she thinks about how she needs a husband and a father for her two girls.
When people ask Anney about Bone's birth certificate, she snaps back at them. Granny tells her to let it go because only then will people stop using it to get a rise out of her. Anney puts on a biting exterior, but no one knows just what she is really thinking or feeling.
Anney and Glen's relationship develops slowly. He drives down to the diner almost every day to see her and tells her that he wants to meet her daughters. Anney starts to let herself trust him and thinks that maybe he'll make a good father.
One day, by complete and utter coincidence, the county courthouse and the hall of records burn down. Anney rushes home from the diner and burns Bone's birth certificate in the sink. All over town, members of the Boatwright family start to laugh.