In the beginning, Jayni's mum, Nikki Fenton, wins £10,000 on a scratchcard. They decide to not tell Jayni's father, Jay, who they fear will spend it on his friends on drinks at the pub or losing it by going to a betting shop. However, Nikki decides to tell Jay anyway because he reveals he has left his job and is joining a mini-cab firm but needs to provide the car. Jay, Nikki, Jayni and her brother, Kenny, go out to T.G.I Fridays spending around £50 on the meal. Jayni fears for herself because as Nikki and Jay 'drank lots' it would almost always 'end in a fight'. Jay gets angry at Nikki for becoming drunk and when they return home, he starts shouting at her. As Jay goes to hit Nikki, she tells Jay to let her put the kids to bed first. However Jayni refuses to go to bed and as a result, Jay gets angry and hits both Jayni and Nikki, he then leaves the house. This was the last straw for Nikki. She had previously put up with the violent nature from her husband, but now he had turned to violence against Jayni, Nikki felt they had to leave. To prevent Jay from tracking them down, they decide to change their identities – Nikki becomes Victoria, Jayni becomes Lola Rose and Kenny becomes Kendall as it is easy for him to remember and Kenny is the nickname and they take the surname Luck.
One night, Nikki goes to the pub to buy a packet of cigarettes from the machine, and does not return home until after midnight, but consolingly she has found a new job (bar work), which means working set afternoons, and evenings if she is needed. The next thing to do is to get the children into school. Once achieved, Nikki starts to fall in love with an art student named Jake. Lola Rose doesn't like him. She is also jealous because Kendall prefers Jake to her. One day, Nikki and Jake argue over the problem of Nikki finding a lump in her breast. Jake reveals that his mother was in the same situation and ignored what turned out to be breast cancer. He subsequently moves out because Nikki has run out of money. She has to go to hospital, but believing she will be back the next day, she leaves only a day's food and a little money. The children soon run out of money and food, but are unable to ask anyone for help because Jayni fears them being taken into care. Jayni finds out where her mother's sister Barbara lives, and telephones her. Nikki had been estranged from her family due to an incident many years previously where she ran away with Barbara's then fiancé. Jayni is worried that Barbara may not want to speak to them; but Barbara comes to stay at once, and provides the children with food. Meanwhile Nikki is becoming worse because of an infection following the surgery.
Nikki has stupidly telephoned Jay, thinking he will be shocked to discover she has been so ill and never touch her again. Jay comes to their flat and is nice at first though he doesn't want Lola Rose any more because he thinks it's her fault that Nikki chose to leave him. He then finds a pair of Jake's boxer shorts, then, calling Nikki a slag, balls up a fist to punch her. Barbara raises her fists as if to punch him, then slyly kicks him in the crotch. He proceeds to attack her with a broken mug, so she smacks him on the shoulder taking out the tendon, so that he drops the mug. She then shoos him out, threatening to kill him if he comes back again (though she later admits she didn't mean it). Jayni, Nikki and Kenny feel safe with the protection of Barbara and the book ends on a positive note. Barbara asks the children and finally Nikki whether they would like to come to her pub to live, while they redecorated it (as Barbara likes the job they have done on the house) and did a karaoke act by her and Nikki.
Jayni remembers children's stories in which the hero has to perform a terrifying but menial task. She envisions that to get her mother better she has to stand by the shark tank and count sixty seconds, sixty times. This she does. An aquarium worker sees this and says she must be a shark enthusiast. They chat about sharks for a few minutes and he gives her a shark's tooth, which is meant to bring good luck. She goes to the hospital and presses it into her mother's hand. Eventually she gets better and returns home. Jayni knows it has nothing to do with the tooth but it is comforting. The family moves into Barbara's pub (which has now been re-named and redecorated.) Jayni decides that she'll continue living as Lola Rose, because the name has become significant to her.