Twelve-year-old Garnet Hubbard knew that her mother Melanie was not good mother material, no matter how badly Garnet and her sister Opal needed her to be. Melanie Hubbard looked at her precious gems and saw everything that was wrong in her life. So in the hot, humid August of Mirabeau, Texas, in the early 1960s, as Garnet prepared for seventh grade and her popular sister Opal prepared to enter high school, their mother awakened them early one morning, loaded them into the pickup truck and left everything behind to follow her dream of becoming a famous country singer in Nashville. Melanie couldn't wait to get to Willow Flats, Oklahoma, to drop off the girls with their Aunt Julia, like a pair of stray kittens. She told them there was a price to be paid for dreams, but as Garnet explains, She had neglected to tell me who all would be paying it. Garnet and Opal find their Aunt Julia's house to be at the edge of the livable world, with no phone, no TV and no car. Further compounding the loss of their mother, their friends and their home, days after they arrive in Oklahoma, their beloved father is seriously injured at his job on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and hospitalized for many months. Garnet's account of the next 10 months is filled with poignant insight and the pain of abandonment and poverty, as well as a seventh grader's longing for acceptance from friends, teachers and family. Garnet and Opal find that acceptance and love from an unlikely group: Aunt Julia, an old maid who carves whirligigs; a native American and octogenarian named Charlie Twelvetrees; an eccentric widow chicken farmer and school bus driver; and one another. Christmas that year brings unexpected kindness to Garnet from those she had not realized were so important to her. As in her other novels, D. Anne Love's target audience is adolescents, but plenty of mothers will also be staying up past bedtime to enjoy this timeless and beautifully told story. Alice Pelland writes from Hillsborough, North Carolina.

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