When May dies suddenly while gardening, Summer assumes she'll never see her beloved aunt again. But then Summer's Uncle Ob claims that May is on her way back--she has sent a sign from the spirit world.Summer isn't sure she believes in the spirit world, but her quirky classmate Cletus Underwood--who befriends Ob during his time of mourning--does. So at Cletus' suggestion, Ob and Summer (with Cletus in tow) set off in search of Miriam B. Young, Small Medium at Large, whom they hope will explain May's departure and confirm her possible return.
This short novel is a study of grief--chiefly, that felt by Summer after her foster mother's sudden death, but also her sorrow at witnessing the grief of Ob, her foster father--she realizes that she herself may not be reason enough for him to go on living. And for several months it seems as if he may not in fact go on, until Summer and Ob take a short car trip that somehow transforms their lives. In a direct, matter-of-fact voice occasionally laced with irony and wry humor, Summer articulates many discerning insights about sorrow and loss. The reader remains a distant observer of her emotions, however--perhaps because the novel begins after May's death, making her a less immediate figure, perhaps because Summer's perceptions are quite sophisticated, even adult. And the novel's emotional turning point is difficult to grasp, either verbally or intuitively: all Summer, and we, know is that ``something happened to Ob'' to make him embrace life fully again. Ages 11-up. (Mar.)