Stated simply, this is a book about Mama King: a strong, elderly woman in Guyana who is condemned to a rest home by her daughters. Mama King has been ailing physically for a while, and is almost seventy. Both of Mama King's daughters live in America and pay to have their mom moved to Frangipani House, a rest home for "aged old folk - black folk."
What Mama King's daughters don't understand is that their mom's ailments are fleeting. She recovers after a while and longs to get away from the rest home. Miss Trask, the Matron of the place continually exhibits control over the patients and finds joy in confining them further. Mama King finally realized that it is Frangipani House that is killing her, not her age.
Mama king continually grumbles about her state. She misses her work. She misses her friends. She even misses "hardship."
I am going lazy-handed to meet my Maker. Me mother dead with sod in her hair. Me father dead with rice grass underneath him. And me I sittin' till me bones get sore waitin'.
Actually, things are a bit worse than this in that people are stealing Mama King's clothes and no one is mailing her letters to her daughters. Even the shots that Mama receives aren't doing their job. Throughout the story, Mama King shares her memories as she plans to escape from Frangipani House.
Mama King refuses to give up by insisting she take back control of her own life despite her age.