In Depression-era California, Cat's the fastest in her school; but when Father, citing a minister's proscription, refuses to buy her slacks to wear in a race, she chooses not to compete. She has ample reason for anger: Father, far less generous with her than he was with her adult half-siblings, Ellen and Cliff, treats her depressed young Mama like a child, and Mama never intercedes on Cat's behalf. Compounding her misery, her school wins the meet with the help of classmate Zane Perkins, a despised Okie. Goading friends want Cat to race Zane; instead, the troubled, neglected sixth-grader makes a secret refuge in a cave, furnishing it with Ellen's old playhouse and a beautiful doll, surplus from Father's store, given Cat long after she had outgrown dolls. When Zane's little sister Samantha finds the hideout and falls in love with the doll, Cat, outraged, sends her away. Still, left with an old woman who dozes while Sammy's mother works in the fields, Sammy returns again and again, followed by her anxious brothers. Gradually, Cat's prejudice softens. In a dramatic climax, Sammy falls desperately ill, and Cat and Zane run together for a doctor to save her. Snyder's (Fool's Gold, 1993, etc.) setting and characters are beautifully realized. The moving conclusion is tempered with a bracing reality.