My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Daralynn Oakland should have been in her father’s plane that day. Instead, she was sitting at home, grounded by her mother, when a state trooper arrived to tell them that the plane’s engine failed, and that Daralynn’s father, older brother, and younger sister died in the crash. After that, nothing can be the same. Her homemaker mother stops cooking meals and takes a job preparing bodies at the local funeral home. Her grandmother loses interest in anything except playing with the 237 dolls well-wishers sent Daralynn. And her single, sophisticated Aunt Josie becomes infatuated with Mr. Clem, a new man in town with some awfully big ideas. Daralynn is just beginning to cope with her grief and the changes in her life when she stumbles on a mystery to solve.
The tiny town of Digginsville comes alive through carefully selected details, such as the K-12 school that is home to the “Mighty Moles” and Doc Lake, where Daralynn enjoys fishing for catfish stocked by the Department of Conservation. The year is left vague, but it is clearly a few decades ago, indicated by the fact that Uncle Waldo has been home from Vietnam for just six years before the crash, and a mention late in the book of events “twenty-two years after” that year. The voice of the first-person narrator, who sounds like an adult recalling her childhood, rather than a current sixth- or seventh-grader, reflects this perspective without calling too much attention to it.
There is some heavy material here, but Klise uses a gentle touch with her quirky characters. Their journey from life B.C. (“Before Crash”) to A.D. (“After Death”) is not without humor or adventure. Recommend to fans of Wiles’ Each Little Bird That Sings and LaFleur’s Love, Aubrey.