In a voiceover, Grace reflects on all the seemingly opposing things people say about her.
Two police officers have Grace by the arms, ushering her forward. The setting is Kingston Penitentiary, 1859. She has been an inmate there for fifteen years after being convicted of murder. She is brought to the governor's house each day. She's a "celebrated murderess." While she is cleaning the house, she appears to be having flashbacks to the murder.
Dr. Simon Jordan is going to evaluate her to determine her sanity. They think he can find answers where others could not. A guard warns him that she murdered two people in cold blood as he arrives at her cell.
Grace is afraid of doctors, as they usually have knives and do things like measure her head, but Dr. Jordan isn't like that. He hands her an apple. He asks what the apple reminds her of, and she thinks of a childhood memory involving an apple peel. Instead, she replies "apple pie."
She flashes back to her time in an asylum, where she is bound. She's scared they'll take her back to the asylum or keep her in solitary confinement. He promises she will not, as long as she continues to talk to him. He leaves.
She speculates that he just wants to be able to go home and brag about solving her case. She sits at a long table for lunch, and another woman calls her the doctor's whore.
Dr. Jordan is sitting in a pub with the reverend, who asks how his interaction with Grace went. Dr. Jordan says it's important to build trust with a patient before digging deeper. The reverend is anxious to see Grace released as soon as possible and is on the committee for her release. He asks when the committee can expect Dr. Jordan's report. Dr. Jordan says he has some questions about the trial himself.
In a flashback to the trial, we see Grace testifying. Dr. Jordan, in a voiceover, says Grace claimed not to know where Nancy was at the time of the arrest, but at the trial, Grace describes seeing McDermott drag Nancy by the hair and toss her down the stairs.
Right before he was hanged, McDermott claimed that Grace strangled Nancy. He screams, "Grace Marks made me do it! She's a whore! Murderer!" The man speaking with Dr. Jordan says that was one of many stories from McDermott and that he was a notorious liar.
The reverend hopes Dr. Jordan will write a report favorable to Grace. Dr. Jordan requests to meet with Grace at the governor's house. The reverend explains that she recently had a fit there that frightened the governor's family--a doctor tried to measure her head--but he says he will try to convince them to allow her back in.
The reverend walks Dr. Jordan back to his accommodations, where Mrs. Humphreys greets him.
The guards taunt Grace as they escort her out of her cell, but she dishes it back.
Grace sits at a table in the governor's house, quilting, with Dr. Jordan sitting nearby. He asks her about the quilts, and she discusses how there are three quilts women should make with their own hands before marriage. She notes how the quilts draw attention to the beds, how beds are the site of so many potentially perilous things in life: birth, sex, and often death.
She thinks he's laughing at her, but he assures her he isn't. She says she'll forgive him if he'll return the favor.
He holds up a beet and asks her if she knows what it is. When she identifies it, he asks if it reminds her of anything. We see a woman tumbling down the stairs, dropping a basket of fruit and vegetables. Instead, Grace discusses Sunday roast.
Grace mentions an old friend, Mary Whitney, but doesn't elaborate when Dr. Jordan asks about her.
Dr. Jordan thinks Grace has given up hope. She says she sets her hopes on smaller matters. He says he'd like to start at the beginning. He says he's going to read her confession, but she says it's not her confession--it's what she was told to say.
He presses her to tell him about Mary Whitney. It's written under her portrait on her confession: Grace Marks, alias Mary Whitney. It's the name she gave when McDermott was running away with her. It was the name of an old friend, who was dead by then, so she borrowed it.
He asks to hear her story from the beginning.
She comes from the north of Ireland. Her family was Protestant and left Ireland with little warning. Her father was English, and people were coming after Protestants. We see them board a ship. She confesses to have considered pushing one of the little ones overboard to spare them the life they would be living, and so there would be one less mouth to feed. She says it was probably just a thought put into her head by the devil or her father. She says she was still trying to please her father then.
Her mother sees an omen: three crows in a row. She says she is going to die before they reach land, and she does. Grace's father spent most of the voyage passed out from alcohol.
Grace suggests Dr. Jordan open a window. She smiles down as he does so.
On the ship, a man says Mass. Grace's mother has a coughing fit. Grace sponges her forehead. The doctor says it's most likely a tumor. He can't help. Grace climbs into bed next to her mother.
The next morning she awakes to find her mother dead. A woman offers her a drink and describes the custom of opening a window to let the soul out.
On the deck of the ship, a priest says a funeral prayer. Grace tells her siblings to kiss her mother goodbye. She is cloaked and changed, and her body is dumped overboard.
Grace is below deck. She cries to the woman who comforted her, saying her mother's soul will never escape because there was no window to open, and she'll be stuck down there forever.
They arrive in Toronto. The diversity is new to her.
Her father is abusive, particularly without her mother there. He calls her a stupid, ugly whore and beats her. When she's asleep, he enters her room, kisses her, and apologizes. He says he wasn't himself. He continues kissing her. She wakes up and pushes him off, running out of the room.
Grace is sweeping ashes near the fireplace. She looks at her father, who is now sleeping in the bed. She picks up the bucket of ashes, walking over to the bed, as if to throw it at him. She didn't want to kill him, although she was afraid the anger in her heart would drive her to it. She turns around and puts the bucket down.
She's sitting at the kitchen table with her sister, peeling carrots, when her father enters and says it's time she went and earned her own bread, sending her wages back. He threatens her and calls her a slut.
She gathers her things and hugs her younger siblings.
Present-day Grace reflects that she told them she'd come back for them, and at the time, she meant it. She tells Dr. Jordan she's tired. He says they'll begin again tomorrow. He asks again about Mary Whitney.
Her landlady secured her employment at a nice house in Toronto. Mary greets her in front of the house. Mary is open and friendly, giving her a tour and filling her in on all the gossip. Mary tells her about the rebellion, which was against the gentry. Mr. William Lyon Mackenzie led the rebellion, but it failed and he escaped into the U.S. Grace asks if Mary is a radical. She is, but the Parkinsons don't know.
Mary tells Grace where to hide her wages. Grace says her money goes straight to her father, but Mary says that's a bad idea since he'll just drink it away and it won't benefit the children anyway. Mary says she'll get Mrs. Honey to advance Grace's wages so they can buy her a proper dress. Mary turns over to go to sleep. Grace looks happy, and reaches out to touch Mary's hair.
The governor's wife interrupts the story. Grace and Dr. Jordan agree to meet again tomorrow.
In her cell, quilting by candlelight, Grace remembers her testimony. She says that in the courtroom and the asylum, everything she said was wrong. Even if it was the truth, it would be twisted. Now, talking to Dr. Jordan, everything she says is right. No matter what she says, he smiles and writes it down. She feels like he is tearing her open, not in a painful way, but like a peach falling open. At one point, as she's speaking, we see Dr. Jordan jolt awake from his sleep in a sweat.