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An unassuming teen-ager has a disturbing amount of responsibility thrust upon her when an aged neighbor is hospitalized. Irascible Aggie Pease has been quarreling with everyone in sight for decades, but warmly welcomes young Johanna Morse, who timidly comes around one day in search of an errant cat. In fact, Aggie has over a dozen cats, and has been caring for stray animals since the 1920's. Johanna is intrigued and begins to visit regularly. Aggie is still sharp of wit but so feeble that she can barely do tot herself; when she falls and breaks her hip, she calls on Johanna to care for her pets and her filthy, decrepit house. Johanna discovers that she has to handle Aggie's personal affairs, too: there are forms to fill out, bills to be paid and--most importantly--decisions to be made about Aggie's future: will she still be capable of living at home alone? With some adult help, Johanna rises to the occasion, and sees Aggie recover enough to come out of the hospital. Their friendship continues for a while, but comes to a sudden end: Aggie lures a neighbor's cat into her house and reacts sharply when Johanna tries to get her to give it back. Aggie with her imperious ways and quiet, reflective Johanna make an engaging pair: not as quirky as the two in Mahy's Memory, but resourceful and drawn with sympathy and humor. By the end, Aggie is neither dead nor senile (unusual in fiction about the very aged), and Johanna has learned some key lessons about when to yield and when to stand firm.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1988
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Delacorte