The Book starts out with the author, Jeannette, riding in a taxi and she spots her mother digging through a dumpster. She doesn't want to be seen by her mother so she ducks in her seat. By the time she gets home she is so mad at herself for no saying hello to her mother that she called a friend of her mother's and left a message. this was the only way she could get a hold of her considering she was homeless. About 3 days later her mother called and they decided to go out to lunch to a Chinese restaurant. While they're eating Jeannette says how worried she is about her mother and father. She offers to help them out and her mother says they don't want their charity. She also says how embarrassed she is of them and her mother tells her, her values are all mixed up and she needs to accept them for who they are.
The next part of the book goes back in time to when she was about 3 years old. She was cooking hot dogs by herself on the stove wearing her favorite pink dress. Not long after she'd been cooking the hot dogs she felt heat coming from the right side of her dress. She looked over and noticed she was on fire. She started screaming and the flames quickly spread. Her mother and father came into the room with a big wool blanket. As the flames go out her mother takes her and calls everyone else out to the car and they ask a neighbor if they could have a ride to the hospital. While they're at the hospital all the nurses question Jeanette's parents parenting. They wonder why she was allowed to cook hot dogs by herself at age 3. The doctors also ask her many other questions such as, have her parents every tried to hurt her, and how she got burned. Jeannette said her parents have never hurt her before and she got burned when she was cooking the hot dogs. The nurses couldn't help but wonder what was going on in their home.
While Jeannette is at the hospital her dad tells her how much she hates hospitals. He didn't take her sister Lori to the hospital when she got stung by a poisonous scorpion. After she got stung she went into convulsions and because her father didn't trust hospitals he took her to a Navajo witch doctor instead. On the sixth week at the hospital, Jeannette was stolen out of her room by her father. Her dad threw her over his shoulder and ran out the door to the running car where the whole family was sitting. He put Jeannette in the back and drove off as fast he could.
Not long after the hospital incident, her dad tells everyone to pack essentials and meet him in the car in 15 minutes. They take off from their trailer home and hit the road. The family cat Quixote started meowing and Mr. Walls threw her out the window of the moving car. He told the children that cats don't like to travel and he thought that was a good enough reason to toss the cat out the window. As the day turned to night they pulled over and slept under the stars. Mr. Walls confesses that the FBI is after him and that's why they had to leave their home.
They keep traveling from city to city and one day as they're traveling they car door pops open and Jeannette falls out of the moving car. Once she collects herself from the fall she sees the car travel further and further away. She starts to cry as she notices her cuts and bloody knees and nose. It takes the car a long time until they come back for her.