A Long Way from Chicago chronicles the adventures of two siblings and their Grandma Dowdel. Joey and Mary Alice, the city kids, are not pleased to spend their summers in Grandma's small town. They prefer their lives in Chicago, where something is always happening. Moreover, Grandma is not a doting or pampering grandmother. She values her privacy, hates small-town gossip, and does not suffer fools lightly. After the first summer, she expects Joey and Mary Alice to find their way home from the station.
Soon the children realize that there is more to Grandma than her grouchy side. She catches criminals, outwits rowdy neighborhood kids, helps lovers to elope, and strong-arms a banker. The sheriff of the town calls her a "one-woman crime wave." From seeing their first corpse to helping Grandma trespass, Joey and Mary Alice have seven unforgettable summers.
Each summer Grandma teaches the children something about life. The kids learn to appreciate her and take on some of her unique characteristics.