A gifted writer returns to one of her favorite themes--love--in this case, as it can inform and transform grief. After her mother's death, Summer was handed from one unwilling relative to another, ""treated like a homework assignment somebody was always having to do."" At six, she was taken in by an elderly uncle and aunt. Ob had a game leg (WW II) and enjoyed creating unusual whirligigs; May liked gardening behind their West Virginia trailer. They loved each other with a deep and abiding love, wholeheartedly including Summer. Now, six years later, May has died. In a poetic, ruminative narrative, Summer recounts Ob's mounting depression, his growing conviction that May is still present, and their expedition to find ""Miriam B. Conklin: Small Medium at Large."" Meanwhile, they've been befriended by Cletus, an odd, bright boy in Summer's class; she doesn't especially value his company, but is intrigued by his vocabulary (""surreal""; ""Renaissance Man"") and his offhand characterization of her as a writer. The quest seems to fail--Reverend Conklin has died--but on the way home Ob finally puts aside his grief to take the two young people to the state capitol as promised: ""Right out of the blue, he wanted to live again."" Rylant reveals a great deal about her four characters, deftly dropping telling details from the past into her quiet story--including a glimpse of Summer, as seen by a girl in her class, ""like some sad welfare case,"" a description the reader who has read her thoughts will know to be gloriously untrue. A beautifully written, life-affirming book.