In a quiet, beautifully crafted first novel, 12-year-old Mandy shoulders a woman's burdens after the birth of Willie, her brother. Though Daddy has a lumbering job, the Depression keeps the Perritts and their Kentucky miner neighbors poor; when Mama is bedridden for six weeks, Mandy, as the oldest girl, is required to stay home from school (which she loves) to replace her. Though reluctant, Mandy is courageous and resourceful, and develops a special affection for the baby in her care. As recompense, she is sent to Memphis for Christmas with her well-off grandparents; ever curious and questing for meaning, she not only experiences the city (Aunt Laura takes her to Beale Street; she observes the street names that ""Mama says the way Daddy names trees"") but also gathers truths about her family (""Like a crazy quilt stitched and bound together, not the same pattern, not even the same cloth""). From the parallel between Mama's relationship with her sister Laura and Mandy's with Willie to the lovely shawl Mama has secretly crocheted as a Christmas gift for Mandy, Lyons' images hold insights that illuminate the world beyond her story; her delicate morsels of philosophy and revelation should hold a strong appeal for the special reader.