Toughened by a rough life, eleven-year-old Turtle has learned to take care of her mother, Sadiebelle. Sadiebelle works hard cleaning houses, so she and Turtle are managing during the Depression. The problem is she cannot stop “falling in love”. As a matter of fact, Turtle has spent her short life watching her mother’s heart break time after time as one man after another came and went from their lives. Archie is different, though. He surely will keep his promise of striking it rich as a traveling salesman and marry Sadiebelle. Until he does, Turtle will have to live in the Florida Keys with the cousins she never knew.
Turtle learns about her mother’s childhood on the islands. She meets Sadiebelle’s older sister and brother-in-law who struggle to keep their family together. She conquers her grandmother who apparently hates children-but falls in love with Turtle. Finally, Turtle becomes acquainted with “Slow Poke”, a neighbor whose kindness leads her to believe that his relationship with her mother may have been more than just friendship.
The reader cannot help becoming involved in Turtle’s struggles. She misses and worries about her mother, whose judgment she does not trust. Turtle also discovers the joy of extended family relations, trailing after her cousins whose babysitting business is reminiscent of a Little Rascals episode. Unfortunately, the absence of Turtle’s father clearly indicates that she was born out-of-wedlock. This small detail has great impact on the story and may render the book inappropriate for younger readers.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.