Study Guide

A Year Down Yonder Love

By Richard Peck

Love

Chapter 3

"He gets a check from the government, but it don't keep them."

"But, Grandma, aren't there veterans' hospitals where he could go?'

"She won't give him up," Grandma said. "She's lost him once already." (3.96-98)

Grandma Dowdel understands the difficult situation that Mrs. Abernathy is in with her son, who has been damaged in the war and cannot take care of himself. But she also understands that Mrs. Abernathy's love of her son trumps all the hard times.

Chapter 4

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)

Grandma Dowdel's town may look dusty and sad to Mary Alice at the beginning of the book, but when her brother is there with her, everything is magical. Love and their little family is what brings on the Christmas spirit.

Chapter 5

The tears started in my eyes. I wanted to hold her in that moment forever, framed by that door. "Grandma," I said, "you're beautiful."

She waved me away, but she was. (5.111-112)

Grandma Dowdel might be too big and unfeminine for most people to consider her a good-looking woman, but Mary Alice sees her grandmother as absolutely beautiful.

Chapter 6

For the rest of the month until he went back to New York, most evenings found Arnold Green strolling to the Noah Atterberrys'. Miss Butler roomed there. They sat out on the porch swing in full view. At the time I supposed they discussed art and poetry and Paris. He used Vitalis now, and Kreml for his dandruff. (6.161)

Alas, Maxine Patch doesn'tĀ end up winning Arnold Green's heart, despite posing nude for him. Instead, he falls head over heels for the prim Miss Butler, who shares his interest in art and literature.

When Royce filled the door, I thought of Joey. Royce was that tall, that broad across the shoulders. Then I fumbled the doorknob because my lacy handkerchief was a damp ball in my hand. I'd ripped it in two. And I wished I'd have some perfume to wear, just a dab behind each ear, in case that worked on a boy. (6.81)

Mary Alice frets when Royce shows up at Grandma Dowdel's house. It's clear that she's got the kind of crush that might inspire her to refresh his Instagram feed every two seconds just to see what's new...if they had social media back in 1937, that is.

Chapter 7

Then I'd shied off and was running across the schoolyard, skirttails whipping, Cuban heels pounding. Anybody with good sense was taking cover, but I wanted to go home. A breeze came up. The Coffee Pot Cafe looked empty, and the screen door was beginning to flap. (7.13)

Tornados are scary, but the prospect of taking shelter at school while Grandma is all alone at home is even scarier. Even though the students are told to take cover, Mary Alice runs home to make sure that her grandmother is safe and sound.

"Grandma, is Mrs. Wilcox your best friend?"

"We neighbors," she said. (7.69-70)

Grandma sure doesn't like to admit that she cares about people. Mary Alice can tell that she cares a whole lot about Effie Wilcox because she goes to check on her after the tornado hits, but Grandma won't say it aloud.

"What would happen if I wrote to you from the U. of I.?"

"I'd faint and fall over from surprise," I said, though somehow his arm had found its way around my shoulder. "There are lots of girls at the U. of I. It's a coeducational institution." (7.86-87)

So it's not just a high school flirtation after all! Royce McNabb asks Mary Alice if he can write to her when he's in college, and she's absolutely floored. Of course, she says yes because she likes him, too. Still, did you see their end-of-book wedding coming?

It was Joey, fresh from the west, off the evening train. Grandma had sent him the ticket. That's where most of the fox money went. That's what it was for.

I had to turn away, quick. There was a lump in my throat, and that would mean tears on my face, and I didn't want Joey to see them. (4.115-116)

This is the best Christmas present that Mary Alice could have ever asked for. She doesn't care about the new shoes or the fox fur on her coat. She's just delighted to see her brother again.

By April Bootsie took time out from her busy schedule to bring me offerings. One afternoon I found a robin's egg on my bed. Had the robin flown in the open window and laid it? But no, Bootsie must have carried it in her mouth all the way up the house for me. I was touched. (6.9)

Bootsie may prefer living in the cob house and catching her own food (instead of eating what Mary Alice gives her), but that doesn't mean she's abandoned her human friends altogether. She still stops by for little visits. Cat love. Is there anything sweeter?