The room is her mother's old room in her grandparents' house, where Catherine too is growing up, wondering why her mother has been off ""sick"" somewhere for as long as Catherine can remember. Catherine first hears from fifth-grade classmates that her mother is ""looney""--and she wins the nickname Ali for her vehement response. As soon as she discovers that her mother, Kathleen, is in a nearby state hospital, Catherine tries to make contact with her. And though her grandmother wants to keep the books closed and so resists Catherine's efforts, Kathleen's new medication and her doctors' recommendations are on Catherine's side, and the little girl is able to get her mother home by forging her grandmother's signature on a letter. The story ends with Kathleen--aware that she can't go on living with her own less-than-supportive mother, but not yet ready to take on an apartment with Catherine--moving into a halfway house with other released patients. The whole story suffers from the drabness of Catherine's home; and during their stay in the shared room Catherine's therapeutic role is overplayed while Kathleen isn't much more real than she was when absent. The grandmother is well done, however, and the little girl's spunk and longing might well establish a hold on readers lured by the subject's curiosity value.