Despite writing that is flat at best and clumsily heavy-handed at worst, Melton's penny-plain story--apparently based on the lives of his grandmother and granduncle--has a raw pathos that is hard to deny. It's 1953, and elderly widow Etta Pearson receives word that her younger brother Theodore is dying in the state institution where he has lived for 30 years; at age nine (as we learn in plugged-in flashbacks), Theodore suffered severe brain damage from a combination of sunstroke and being frightened by a fierce neighbor (who later committed suicide out of guilt). Now Theodore is dying, and, par for the course of Etta's self-sacrificing life, no one will drive her to Osawatomie so she can be there when Theodore dies: her younger sisters have always been ashamed of Theodore, her son is a drunk, her teenage niece is afraid. So Etta goes alone, by train, along the way remembering the decision to have Theodore institutionalized and the rest of the family's refusal to help keep him at home. But Etta gets her reward: dying Theodore recognizes her and has a moment when his pre-accident self emerges. Etta's bravery and self-righteousness will be a bit much for some to take (""Judas Iscariot!"" she screams at her sister), and the literary values stay strictly at the young-adult level. But there is something to be said for--and felt from--even the least artful slice-of-life when it's as good-hearted, unadorned, and piteous as this one.