Aside from the spontaneous happiness of a springlike November morning and some fooling around with best friend Sandra, all of this occurs way down in the dumps, with ninth grader Corrie whose father is dying of cancer. Corrie, vaguely guilty because much of her pity is for herself, visits the hospital every night and gives up the first basketball game of the year and the lead in the school play, half believing that if she sacrifices enough Daddy will get better. It's the same with the garden (now dead) that he keeps asking about while he's still conscious--Corrie won't give in to her mother and tell him it's doing fine because that would somehow be acknowledging that he was never coming home to discover the truth. But then when it's unavoidably clear that Daddy is on his way out, she comes to realize that he won't really be dead if his love and memory survive, and that his real garden--the people and ideas and dreams and hopes--will continue to do fine. Corrie's grief and her bargaining are convincing and here are some touching lighter moments as when she and Sandra, both Protestants, light candles for her Dad at the Catholic church. However, the added consolation of a show of interest from the boy she's had her eye on is gratuitous at best. And both the pat artificiality of Corrie's lightning-bolt acceptance of the death and the reiterated contrast between her practical, worrying mother (a ""useful vegetable"" in the garden) and her generous, genial father (a ""flower"") are heavyhanded enough to make the atmosphere oppressive in unintended ways.