Though one isn't sure until Roosevelt's name is mentioned somewhere along, Seely's family is mired in the Great Depression as well as in the isolated red clay hills and hollows of southern Indiana. Seely is almost certainly a younger incarnation of the author which strengthens her story of how she and brother Jamie, a dreamer subject to periodic ""spells,"" were transformed from confident outsiders into shy and insular hill kids, at home in their special cave hideaway but ill at ease in the shabby one-room school where so many of their fellow scholars seemed perpetually mired in the fourth grade. Seely only gradually becomes aware of the grown-up tragedies going on around her; she and Jamie are horrified to hear how Dad's friend Jase shot himself in despair and Seely is troubled by the mystery of how her friend Clara's sister Della went to the city and got fat and then just stayed around inside the house all day. The precise texture of borderline poverty (Dad manages to get a public works job some distance away) and Mom's angry pride reinforce Seely's climactic triumph when she arrives embarrassingly overdressed (high-heeled dippers and a voile dress) for her eighth grade graduation. Moments of sentimentality and a certain awkwardness as Seely occasionally slips from a live character into a mere reminiscence are limiting factors, but Seely has the starch to see things through to the end -- and to make the quiet, mud soaked country she simultaneously loves and hates seem like a true home.