At 15, Chip has always felt responsible for Anne, his mother--a gifted artist who seems to depend on him for decisions. When she becomes pregnant by a man she will not name and plans to bear the child, Chip's dismay is complicated by a possessiveness that it takes him some time to recognize. The father (as the reader--but not Chip--learns early on) is Ben, an art dealer in a distant city who has singlehandedly nurtured Anne's career and who has a well-loved wife and family; the night with Anne (who has loved him for years) occurred as she comforted him in his acute worry about his missing daughter. Anne's subsequent silence protects him, but also forces her to make this decision on her own and to begin to separate herself from Chip. Healing begins as Chip names the baby (Dusky Anne) and comes to love her when she is left in his care; but Anne--in part through the catalyst of Chip's anger at him--gives Ben up forever, lest too many lives be hurt. Rylant's stories seem simple, yet each relationship is subtly defined; each passage contributes to the careful design. Chip--who can be brashly rude to his mother in his frustration, but who can also be an unusually compassionate, responsible person--is and always will be possessive; through the novel's action, he learns what that means to him and to the people he loves, how to hold them, and how--in kindness--to let them go. A wise, beautifully crafted novel with uniquely memorable characters.