A semieducated girl raises her baby sister in the hills of Appalachia in the first third of this century -- and tells us about it, very plainly. Twelve-year-old Rennie Slone, a slightly disguised Verna Mae Stone, is left motherless shortly after her sister Sarah Ellen is born. Working to take care of the farm, the house, and the new baby while her preacher father comes and goes as he likes, Rennie struggles. Here, the little things, trite though they often are, do make a difference, and the details of everyday life are interesting, although Slone tends to rush past the smells, the sounds, the colors that make her world special. Rennie's one goal is to send her sister to the school she was forced to leave during her mother's pregnancy. It happens, of course, and her sister even graduates from college -- no small feat, but not surprising. In fact, nothing about life up in Kentucky's Lonesome Holler seems unexpected, but perhaps that is as much the fault of the scrambled chronology as it is of Slone's matter-of-fact tone. The brightest spot is when her first cousin Johnnie comes to live with them and soon enough falls in love with Rennie. When she tells him she believes she was born to be a spinster, he moves out, taking the plot with him. Reworking material drawn from her own 80 years (much of it already covered in nonfiction works like What My Heart Wants to Tell, 1979), the author produces a series of front-porch tales, though not a novel. Novels require development, and fiction. Although a preface says that Slone calls her writing ""faction,"" the actual sequence of events in her/Rennie's life as relayed here doesn't make up a story, and Slone keeps her imagination, which glimmers brilliantly at points, in check. Very good tidbits -- local history, heartache, and humor -- held too close to the vest.