Sure, A Year Down Yonder takes place in a challenging historical time and place, but Mary Alice tells her tales of poverty and wartime with optimism and warmth. She lingers over the little things that bring her happiness, like when her brother Joey surprises her by visiting for Christmas:
But what I remember best about that evening is the three of us walking home from church. I see us yet, strolling the occasional sidewalks with our arms around Grandma, just to keep her from skidding, because she said she was a hog on ice. And every star above us was a Christmas star. (4.120)
It's not about the presents they get each other, or even how delicious Christmas dinner is. Instead, the tone of the book is set by the love that these characters share for one another—and how much they treasure the time spent in each other's company.