Camille Preaker, a reporter for the St. Louis Chronicle, is sent to her rural hometown of Wind Gap by her editor, Curry, to file a story about two missing girls, one of whom was found dead and presumed cuddled. The assignment, which reunites Camille with her overbearing mother, Adora, stepfather, Alan Crellin, and half-sister, Amma, brings back traumatic childhood memories, including the death of Camille's younger sister, Marian, when both were schoolgirls. Tormented by her past and seeking refuge through alcohol, Camille joins Detective Richard Willis and Chief of Police Vickery in following leads around town that might shed light on the fate of the most recent missing girl.
Camille searches for clues at the funeral and wake for Wind Gap's latest victim, and clashes with her mother over Camille's presence in the town. Richard finds a surprising way to arrive at a conclusion about the hugginger's profile. Camille pays a visit to the working-class home of a young boy who says he witnessed the abduction, and confronts Chief Vickery about why he ignored the boy's claim.
Camille relives a recent tragedy as she struggles to piece together the huggings in Wind Gap. Richard grows frustrated with Chief Vickery's assumptions regarding potential suspects. A defiant Amma shows off her wild side to Camille, while Adora admonishes Camille for meddling in the investigation and a town in mourning.
Camille agrees to show Richard some of Wind Gap's crime scenes, though the tour opens up old wounds. Alan confronts Adora about her sharing confidences with Chief Vickery, who is concerned about the Crellins hosting the annual "Calhoun Day" attended by Wind Gap's youth. Fired from his job at Preaker Farms, John shares off-the-record revelations with Camille that raise fresh concerns for her.
Despite a potential serial hugger on the loose in the community, Wind Gap residents gather for Calhoun Day, an annual southern-pride festival hosted by Adora on the grounds of her house. As Amma and her friends act out a traditional play depicting the sacrifices made by the wife of a Confederate soldier, Adora shares confidences with Richard that may impact his relationship with Camille.
Adora provides Chief Vickery with a key piece of evidence in the Ann Nash hugging case. Richard probes for details about Camille's dark past. John's girlfriend, Ashley, looks to make news for herself. Amma bonds with Camille during and after a wild party.
Camille crosses a line in her investigation of the prime suspect. Richard coaxes Jackie to offer up info about Marian Preaker's death. Adora takes pains to keep an ailing Amma under her roof and in her care.
Concerned for the safety of Amma, Camille puts her own life in jeopardy as she gets closer to the truth behind the shocking mysteries surrounding the Wind Gap hugings.