Ree's quest to find her father before she loses their house and land to the state. He has put their timber, house and land up as collateral for his bail bondsman to bail him out of jail, and then no one has seen him since. Whether he is dead or alive, Ree needs to find him so that she can keep what little her and her siblings and mentally ill mother still have.
Towards the end of the story, Ree's enemies take her to find her father's body, dumped into an out of the way pond tied to a tire rim. In the novel's grisly conclusion, Ree has to hold up her father's arms so that her enemies--the wives of other meth dealers who killed Ree's father--can chain saw off her father's hands, horrible proof to the police that her father is indeed dead. This is the disturbing conclusion to the story.