After 12-year-old Emily's father dies (helmetless, in a motorcycle accident), she and her mother move from Chicago to rural Wisconsin where Mother grew up. For Emily, the new life is bleak: she's still grieving for Dad. school is uncongenial, and Mother is near exhaustion from running the farmhouse as an inn. Emily, immersed in her own problems, is oblivous to her mother's--until she discovers a sealed attic containing clues to her mot her's past and begins lo wonder how to reconcile contradictory images of her: creative child with overstrict parents; strict parent to Emily, trying to counter Dad's overindulgence; newly widowed, frazzled, uncharacteristically permissive, and in need of a new kind of understanding from her daughter. While there are some predictable shenanigans and stock scenes involving the inn's boarders here, Emily's dawning realization that her mother also has needs and unresolved emotions concerning the irresponsible manner of Dad's death are thoughtfully drawn.