The wide open spaces of Connemara, filled with nothing but sea and sky, are all lost to Esther Doyle when she is betrayed by her lover, Conor. Rejected by her family, she is sent to join the 'fallen women' of the Holy Saints Convent in Dublin where, behind high granite walls, she works in the infamous Magdalen laundry while she awaits the birth of her baby.
At the mercy of nuns, and working mostly in silence alongside the other 'Maggies, ' Esther spends her days in the steamy, sweatshop atmosphere of the laundry. It is a grim existence, but Esther has little choice--the convent is her only refuge, and its orphanage will provide shelter for her newborn child.
Yet despite the harsh reality of her life, Esther gains support from this isolated community of women. Learning through the experiences and the mistakes of the other 'Maggies, ' she begins to recognize her own strengths and determination to survive. She recognizes, too, that it will take every ounce of courage to realize her dream of a new life for her and her child beyond they grey walls of the Holy Saints Convent.