The characters from Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark and Caleb's Story are back in Patricia MacLachlan's newest novella. Cassie, about to enter third grade, is also about to give up her spot as the baby of the family. She does not willingly take on the mantle of big sisterhood, even when it is clear the "terrible baby" is coming no matter what she says. Her mother, Sarah, is uncomfortable, tired and a little surprised to find herself expecting another baby. After all, she was already an older mom when Cassie was born. Her stepchildren, Anna and Caleb, are mostly grown, and her life has settled into a routine that is about to change dramatically.
MacLachlan takes her characters and their emotions seriously. She allows Cassie to find an outlet for her strong feelings. She keeps a journal, the one passed to her by her much-older brother, Caleb. Here she records her observations of her family and mines the rich ore of her own imagination. She loves telling little stories of the day's events, usually with a little exaggeration. When she learns that her mother is not sick, just pregnant, she will need the journal for something more. She finds a safe place to express her misgivings about the baby and her deep fears that something will happen to her beloved mother in childbirth. She imagines the baby going away, being too troublesome or too ugly. Her amusing tales reflect an eight-year-old's view of a world about to change.
It takes her a while, but she remembers the terrible stories of Caleb's birth, when his mother died from the ordeal. She wonders if it could happen again. This fear moves her to watch her mother's every move as Cassie sets out to be her mother's protector.
Sarah, who has grown from a Yankee mail-order bride into a warm stepmother and mother, says the right things to comfort her anxious daughter and let her know that she has enough love for all her children.
A visit with Sarah and her growing family is like a cup of hot tea, reassuring, comforting, and familiar.