We begin with 10-year-old Opal and her daddy, a preacher. They've just moved south to Naomi, Florida where Dad's going to be the new town preacher.
Opal is super down in the dumps until she meets Winn-Dixie, a smiling, sneezing, full-a-love pooch who adopts Opal as his owner. She tells Winn-Dixie everything, about her sadness in Naomi and how she misses her mama, who she can't even remember. Sad face.
Even though Opal now has Winn-Dixie, she sure needs friends and love.
The situation is set up, and now it's time for some action. Winn-Dixie gets the party started, going right to work helping Opal out. Thanks to his crazy antics, she meets some great friends, though they're not all her age.
Sweetie Pie Thomas, age five, invites her to her birthday party. Miss Franny, the old lady librarian, tells her stories and even lets Winn-Dixie inside the library (gasp!). Gloria Dump, the supposed-but-not-at-all-town-witch, shares peanut butter sandwiches and listens to Opal's stories. Otis, the quiet pet store cashier, plays guitar for the animals while Opal listens.
Thanks to her new friends' advice, Opal even gives friendship a shot with pinchy-faced Amanda Wilkinson (who is her age) and the annoying Dewberry brothers (also her age).
Even with all this friend-making, Opal thinks more and more about her mother and wishes she were nearby. Sigh.
The whole missing-mom thing better come to a turning point soon, or Opal and her daddy will both explode. Or implode. Or both, which would be really disgusting. Therefore, it's time for a party. Sorry, what? Just follow us here. It'll make sense in the end.
Opal and Gloria plan a party for all their new friends to attend—even the preacher. The guests shows up, everything is going swimmingly, and then a crazy thunderstorm splits open the sky. The partiers head inside, and in the confusion, Opal loses track of Winn-Dixie, who is terrified of storms. He's gone. Not good.
Opal and the preacher look for him in the pouring rain but turn up dry. Dog-wise, that is. Yet even though they don't find Winn-Dixie, their experience in the storm changes things
Opal has a meltdown when the preacher wants to stop looking. She accuses him of quitting when her mother left, and long story short, both of them end up crying and realizing that Opal's mother is really gone—and she's not coming back.
Now that the daddy-daughter issues are settled, it's time to figure out the missing-dog issues. At this point, Opal and her daddy (what she calls him from here on out) are wet through and through, but still no Winn-Dixie. They hold hands and decide to keep looking for him after they check in at Gloria's place.
Good thing they did! Turns out while they were having their climactic moment of epic relationship proportions, Winn-Dixie was hiding out under Gloria's bed! The rest of the partiers found him and coaxed him out. HUGE breath of relief.
Opal can't help herself. She hugs Winn-Dixie as hard as she possibly can. Love that wet-dog smell.
Pretty much everything is hunky-dory:
• Friends for Opal? Check.
• Daddy-daughter relationship? Check.
• Dog found? Check.
• Mother-daughter relationship? Um… that still needs a little tying up. Thus, the resolution.
Let's resolve this puppy.
Opal sneaks outside to a tree laden with (empty) alcohol bottles that Gloria says scare the ghosts of her mistakes away. Opal looks at the tree, the sky, and then talks to her mom. It's like Simba talking to Mufasa in the star. Kind of. But not really.
Anyway, she tells her mama that they know she's not coming back. She still misses her, and she wants to know more about her. But her heart is full, now… so she's okay. (Sorry, we can't help ourselves. It's the whole "heart is full" thing.)
As we were saying. Opal tells her mom that she probably won't think of her as much as she did that summer (can't say the same for Marius and Cosette, though).
Then not-so-annoying-anymore-and-maybe-even-kind-of-cute Dunlap Dewberry finds her outside and convinces her to come back in. So does not-so-pinchy-faced-anymore-Amanda Wilkinson. Opal realizes that the best things in life are right in front of her—you've got to love 'em while you've got 'em.
Yea for happy endings!