Fourteen-year-old Kelly is torn between being "best friend" to her mother, who, though she is sprightly and lovely, seems to have withdrawn from adult relationships, and pursuing her own friendships and life at school. Her father, a pilot, is gone from home a lot of the time, so she and her mother live a fairly isolated life.

It is not until her mother is suddenly whisked off to the hospital at the end of one of the father's visits that Kelly learns there is something seriously wrong with her. No one, however, will tell her precisely what happened or what's wrong. She is sent to her grandmother's in Florida to wait out her mother's hospitalization, and for a time isn't even allowed to communicate with her mother by phone.

Eventually she learns that her mother is clinically depressed and has been suicidal. In the meantime she learns a great deal about coping with loneliness, uncertainty, and new adult relationships, with a strait-laced grandmother and a senile grandfather as well as a disabled young man, a neighbor in Florida, who takes her seriously and helps her find a new self-assurance in spite of--or perhaps in part because of--her difficult circumstances. Faced with a choice of boarding school or returning to a mother still in gradual recovery, Kelly firmly opts to live with her mother and learn about both the responsibilities and the limits of caring for a parent who needs love but not co-dependency.


This is a sensitively written narrative that gets at the complex mix of emotions a child might experience in response to a parent's illness, especially when she is left out of the conversation by adult caregivers. It is realistic about the limitations of particular coping strategies, the sadness of separation, and also the resiliency of young people who, despite family problems, have their own growing-up agendas and need help with guilt and confusion so they won't feel they have to become their sick parents' keepers. Very helpful for young people dealing with illness in the family.


This book received a citation as Best Young Adult Book of the Year from the American Library Association (1983).



Place Published

New York



Page Count