This story by Arundhati Roy is not linear. There are several instances of flashbacks and flash-forwards. Therefore, it may not be easy to follow. In the beginning, the background of this family is revealed. Pappachi is the grandfather who could not become an entomologist. He takes out his frustrations his wife, Mammachi. They have two children, a boy Chacko and a girl Ammu. Chacko marries Margret in England, and they give birth to a girl called Sophie. Chacko goes back home after their divorce. Ammu gets married to Baba. They give birth to a boy called Esthappen and a girl named Rahel. Baba is an abusive husband. He loses his job, and the boss wants to have sex with Ammu for him to get it back. Ammu goes back to Ayemenem before that happens.
Chacko invites Margret to Ayemenem. They go to meet her at the airport with Ammu and her children. On their journey, Rahel notices Velutha at the communist rally. Snack vendor at the theatre molests Estha. Later, Rahel goes to talk to Velutha. This incident does not auger well with Ammu.
Rahel and Estha escape with Sophie when their mother Ammu is helped for being in a relationship with Velutha. As they use a boat, they are involved in an accident as Sophie dies. They blame the death on Velutha and accuse him of raping Ammu. The police beat Velutha to death. The family becomes disunited. Ammu and her children separate after Sophie’s funeral. She later succumbs to lung disease. Rahel becomes an architect and marries in America.
When they are 31, Rahel and Estha meet in Ayemenem. At that time, Estha is mute. In the process of trying to make her brother recover, the two siblings have sex. They even fall in love with each other even though it is not right.