With her mama recently dead and her pa sight unseen since birth, fourteen-year-old Amelia is suddenly in charge of her younger brother and sister--and of the family gas station. Harley Blevins, local king and emperor of Standard Oil, is in hot pursuit to clinch his fuel monopoly. To keep him at bay and keep her family out of foster care, Melia must come up with a father--and fast. And so when a hobo rolls out of a passing truck, Melia grabs opportunity by its beard. Can she hold off the hounds till she comes of age?
Featuring a heroine as pragmatic and resourceful as Mary Call from Where the Lilies Bloom, adult author Bayard's (Roosevelt's Beast) poignant Depression-era novel traces the struggles of 14-year-old Melia Hoyle and her siblings after their mother's death. Now orphaned, Melia has to care for siblings Janey and Earle, keep the family gas station running, and find a legal guardian so they won't be put into foster care. Unexpected help comes from a down-and-out hobo, Hiram Watts, who agrees to pose as their estranged father. While he spends his days holed up in a tiny bedroom, Melia pumps gas and fixes engines. The deception works for a while, but a competing businessman, Harley Blevins, is bent on bringing down Melia and the gas station. Set in rural Virginia and told through Melia's no-nonsense narration, this period novel evokes the stoicism of mountain people and the ways neighbors help each other during hard times. Although a loner by nature, Melia's uncompromising integrity wins the trust and affection of community members while earning her a steady stream of customers, too. Ages 12 up.