Sal Hiddle and her father are moving from Bybanks, Kentucky, to a new home in Euclid, Ohio, for two reasons. The first reason is that, after Sal’s mother left to go to Idaho and is now not returning, Mr. Hiddle cannot be around the house that the family had shared. It has become too sad for him, and he needs to get away to a different environment so that he can adjust to his new life. Sometimes a home ceases to be a home when one of its members is missing.
Another reason is that he wants to be around Margaret Cadaver, his new next-door neighbor, because of a connection that will be revealed at the end of the novel. Sal does not accept these reasons; she wants to go back home to the farm she had grown up on, and to be near to her grandparents. Though she quickly makes friends, such as Phoebe Winterbottom and Mary Lou and Ben Finney, her heart belongs to Bybanks.