Papa says that by the time Girlie came along--number eleven in an all-girl family--he had run out of names; but, as Girlie learns here, there's another way in which he isn't willing to give her a name. Though Girlie is twelve when Mama dies in 1936, the doctor says it was that last baby that killed her. And so Papa, unable to face his guilt feelings, has decided that Girlie isn't his. But all she knows at first is that Papa doesn't want her, won't keep her, and the story takes her, with her cat Clark Gable and her pillowcase full of possessions, from one married sister to the next. The mean ones kick her out, and the others can't feed her or need her bed for a nurse, new baby, or whatever. Girlie keeps going through all the unsettled time, puzzling out the world and starting to work out her own place in it, chipping away at the mystery of Papa's stubborn rejection, and at last, in a masterstroke of tact and compassion, persuading him to take her back as an adopted daughter. Gritty and independent as Rass and Naomi, Girlie will make a name for herself.