1)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.
The Walls family lives in a depot in Battle Mountain, Nevada. The kids start going to school and come in tact with all sorts of trouble. Jeannette's mother starts a new job as a teacher and her father works in the mine. Jeannette has an admirer, Billy Deel, but has no interest in him. He goes out of his way to show how he wants her to be his girlfriend but she shoots him down one time after another. Billy shows signs of an insecure childhood and questionable behavior. He attempts to rape Jeannette and she decided not to tell anyone about it. Only a day or two after the attempted rape Billy comes over to the Walls' house with a BB gun and starts shooting. Lori, Jeannette's older sister, grabs their father's pistol to scare him off. Later that night their parents come home with the police and they ask the children questions about the fight. As soon as the police leave Mr. Walls decides the family should flee to Phoenix where Mrs. Walls' mother once lived but recently passed away to start their new life.
he Walls family moves into Rose Mary's mother's house. They consider it a mansion compared to what they were used to living in. When the kids get enrolled in school they get their ears and eyes checked and Lori ended up getting glasses, which their mother disapproved, but because the school offered to pay for them she allowed Lori to get the glasses. Because Mr. Walls got a solid job with a steady income, he decided to buy all the kids bikes. The kids were so surprised and thought for sure life was looking up from there.
Not long after they moved into their new house they started having trouble with the neighbors. The first bad encounter was with their "gypsy" neighbors. They has supposedly stolen Brian's pogo stick and Rose Mary fought "magic with magic" to get the pogo stick back. The second encounter they had was with a neighbor that intruded in their open house at night which they called a pervert. He molested Jeannette in her bed and when she realized he was there, her and Brian chased him out all by themselves. We also learned that Rex doesn't like going to church because he doesn't have a faith. Most times when they take him to church he very rudely interrupts the sermon and gets them kicked out.
When Rex Walls hears about a women getting a Mountain Lion killed he gets furious and takes the kids to the zoo to show them how all animals aren't harmful if you know how to interact with them. He takes the kids to see the cheetah and he lets them stick their hands in the cage and shows them how harmless they are. The cheetah licks their hands but then a woman calls security on them and they have to run out of the zoo.
Rose Mary tells the kids that she thought it was going to be a great Christmas that year. They went out and bought a dead tree and put their grandmother's ornaments on it. When they get kicked out of the midnight mass they go home to open presents but their dad is too drunk that he sets the tree and all the gifts on fire .
For Jeanette's tenth birthday her dad asks her what she wants for her birthday to make the rest of her life better while she's living with them and she asks him to stop drinking. He takes this in a very strange way and he secludes himself from his family since she asked this of him. One day when she comes home from school she hears her dad yelling from his bedroom and he's tied to his bed. She asks her mom what's going on and she said that he's battling his own demons.
After Rex recuperates from not drinking he decided the family should go on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. They end up breaking the car down by making the car go as fast as it can. They end up having to hitch hike home but Rex decided to walk home. Three days went by and he came home completely drunk and started yelling for Rose Mary. They got in a huge fight which involved knifes, but didn't take long to taper off.
I think that the book is very well written. When I'm reading i feel like I'm actually watching it happen. It is very descriptive and easy to follow. There are some things that I sometimes question and I wish she would follow more in depth with but overall I am really enjoying the book. This book also is somewhat disturbing to me. The way Jeanette's parents handle certain situations makes me sad for her and her siblings. I couldn't even imagine living the way they lived and I just have to wonder what my life would be like if I were in her shoes. I don't really have any relations to her in my own life. My life is completely different from the way she grew up.