Love, as Lydia Birdsong is fond of remarking, is sesquipedalian. And for one long Southern summer after Dad leaves home and Billy Frank is forbidden by his sister Rucelle to come around, love means teaching her retarded twin sister Lorna to be ""just like me."" Lydia's efforts to interest Lorna in learning cards and harmonica playing and to probe her six year-old mind for signs of emotion are punctuated by Lorna's bored ""yerrrs"" and yelps of resentment. Billy Frank, Muzz's funeral-going friend Coochie and even the antisocial tenant, who reluctantly identifies himself as whodunit writer Roscoe Drummond, try to suggest that Lydia practice a less demanding kind of love, but the hard truth doesn't really hit Lydia until she finds herself dangling at the edge of a forty foot sinkhole with Lorna standing confused at the other side -- unable to help or even comprehend Lydia's danger. And the answer to Lydia's doubt that Lorna has any feeling comes in just as brutal a way; returned to her ""exceptional"" school for the fall, Lorna, who either ignores Lydia or flings back her taunts of dumbkin and quirk, runs happily into the arms of her schoolfriend Jane. Lydia expresses her disappointment in a message to herself that life is ""longer than a foot and a half. And it is more awkward than awkward."" Unlike Littabelle Lee, Mary Call Luther and other Cleaver heroines, Lydia finds that determination doesn't always win out, and one suffers and stretches with her as a little of the edge is shaved off her keen ego and her heart makes room for the lesson that ""it takes more than smart to know about things like Lorna.