Every Day After tells the impressive story of 12-year-old Lizzie Hawkins growing up in Depression-era Alabama. Her father left in search of work, and her mother is practically catatonic with grief, spending each day in her rocking chair without saying a word. Lizzie doesn’t know how she’ll stay in first place at school, get all the chores done, and care for Mama. Things get even more complicated when her school rival, Erin Sawyers, threatens to tell the town doctor about Lizzie’s mama, which will probably have Lizzie sent off to an orphanage. As if things couldn’t get worse, a letter arrives from the bank claiming past due mortgage payments, money that the Hawkins family simply doesn’t have. Lizzie’s premature responsibility is incredible, but even more beautiful to see is her growing understanding of success and failure, loyalty and friendship.

Lizzie’s best friend Ben challenges her to think about other people’s problems, rather than her own. His own father had died only the year before, and his family lost their house. Lizzie’s rivalry with Erin leads into vicious fights and rumor-spreading, but Ben constantly encourages Lizzie to forgive Erin.

Lizzie’s daddy had always taught her not to ask for help or hand-outs, but she overcomes pride and gets a job at the general store. Her grief at his departure is very real and her hope that he will return helps her to push herself to do well in school and take care of Mama. Daddy had always been disappointed when she got second place, because he knew she could do better. Lizzie has always tried for success; it is only at the end that she realizes that failure is not falling down, but choosing to stay down.

A well-told, gentle and beautiful story that traces Lizzie’s growth to maturity.