One day, 12-year-old Daralynn Oakland is grounded for going fishing in Doc Lake without telling her mother. Daralynn can’t help but spend the afternoon pouting, especially since being grounded means she will miss going on an airplane ride with her daddy, a pilot, her older brother, Wayne Junior, and little sister, Lilac Rose.

But as it turns out, being grounded keeps Daralynn alive: three members of her family are killed when the plane crashes. Now Daralynn and her mother, Hattie, must face the future alone in their small town of Digginsville, Missouri, population 402.

The tragedy changes life for mother and daughter in so many ways that Daralynn begins to think of her life as divided into two parts: B.C. (Before the Crash) and A.D. (After the Deaths). Before, she had been part of a family of five, and shared a bedroom with her sister. Now there are just the two of them, and she has her own room. To make things worse, her mother doesn’t “do” sad well and won’t talk about the past. So Daralynn takes to writing to her father and siblings, afraid that if she doesn’t keep them in her heart she might forget them.

Some practical things change too. Daralynn gets so many dolls after the accident (237 to be exact) that people start calling her Dolly. She doesn’t particularly like the dolls, but her grandmother, Mamaw, sure does. And Daralynn’s mom, Hattie, does such a fine job fixing Lilac Rose’s hair in her coffin that she gets hired by the local funeral parlor to do dead people’s hair ($45 a corpse).

Their income from the funeral parlor is soon put at risk when the handsome and dashing Mr. Clem Monroe arrives in town. He takes to courting Daralynn’s Aunt Josie (owner of The Summer Sunset Retirement Home for Distinguished Gentlemen). He also opens a new crematorium—directly competing with the Danielson Family Funeral Home where Hattie works.

But is Clem’s business on the up and up? Is he just after Aunt Josie’s heart, or is he really trying to steal her money?

As Daralynn tries to solve the puzzles that unfold—and possibly save her aunt from making a dreadful mistake—she also faces the mysteries of grieving. While her subject matter is serious, author Kate Klise brings humor and warmth to this heartfelt story of healing and hope.

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