The story begins when Deza Malone is at school on the second to last day of school. She has written the last essay of the year and is very proud of it; awaiting her grade on the assignment.
When school is out, the family finds it harder and harder to make ends meet, especially considering that they are in the middle of the Great Depression. They lose their house and have to live in a camp. Roscoe Malone sets out to Flint to find a job, leaving the family all alone.
However, when the family loses their house, they have to learn how to survive on their own. Meanwhile, no letter comes from Roscoe (even though he promised to send letters to general delivery). The family begins to worry about him and this causes Jimmy to go out on his own to bring money into the family.
The whole Malone family is worried about Roscoe when they don't hear from him. But because of Dezas perseverance, Peg Malone doesn't give up on Roscoe. She is motivated to write to hospitals and poorhouses just to know that he is alive. But someone writes her back about one of the "residents" in the poor house.
Peg is convinced that this is Roscoe and so she picks up Deza and is on her way to see. She gets to the poor house- a raggedy old shack that reeks, and there are a ton of raggedy old men to match the building-if you could call it that. It turns out that the man is Roscoe and so they take him home.
The family takes Roscoe home-the house that they were able to buy with the money Jimmy earned from singing in nightclubs. And the whole family is reunited again back in their hometown.