A gentle, backroads story of an adolescent year in the South of the '30's -- in which a young girl's capacity to love softens the downward path of her parents. Florrie, 15, lives with her father, an unsuccessful tenant farmer, and mother Julia -- generous, untidily appealing, proud, plotting for a move to town, a house with a basement and a furnace, and maybe the good times. Daddy has a shoddy, romantic attachment to the land, but the money comes more often than not from odd jobs and digging graves at Aunt Mira's cemetery. Aunt Mira, Julia's sister, is tight-fisted and mean as a grub, but Aunt Marcy, who comes to help when Julia is sick, brings her own brand of weil-to-do disapproval. While Julia tries her hand at better prospects -- one day at a job, a puzzle contest, saving money in a candy box -- Florrie daydreams through woods and meadows, reads Grace Livingston Hill, weeps over Jane Eyre, experimentally adores one special boy (she later beats him up), squabbles and makes up with Julia. The lively rapport between mother and daughter unifies the small family; somehow old bitternesses between the estranged parents are contained and absorbed. But abruptly Julia dies, and Florrie, realizing that she is essentially alone, leaves with her defeated father for a future where ""you can't plan anything."" Florrie's gangling ingenuousness and her flip tongue give pace and point to a sad sweet tale of dreams gone sour.