Young adult novel

Point of View

The narrator speaks in the third person, but focuses on Dicey's experiences and perceptions.


The narrator speaks in a straightforward and objective tone


Simple past


Southern Maryland in the early 1980s


The letters from the Boston mental hospital foreshadow Momma's death

Major Conflict

Dicey struggles to come to terms with her mother's mental illness and her role in her family.

Rising Action

Dicey, who has shepherded her siblings from Massachusetts, where her mentally ill mother abandoned them, to their grandmother's house in Maryland, struggles to understand her new role as a positive and supportive emotional presence in her siblings' lives. She helps her siblings face their problems, she establishes a strong relationship with her grandmother, and even begins to reach out to people in her school when Gram rushes her off to Boston on short notice.


In Boston, Gram and Dicey find Momma, who is on her deathbed. Gram and Dicey sit with Momma and make their goodbyes, and she dies the morning after they arrive.

Falling Action

Gram and Dicey bring Momma back to be buried near the house in Maryland. Gram brings the family album down to share with the children on the night they bury Momma.