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Sonny is only one of the spies at the Bradshaw house in Mozier, Alabama. But as a child he saw a tray full of dinner come flying across the front hall at his father. His mother's aim was dead on. And Daddy's departure promptly followed.
Loretta, Sonny's older sister, spies by eavesdropping. As she tells him, "How else am I going to survive in a family tight-lipped as tombs?"
But the kids' spying only scratches the surface of what's really going on in this 1950s family in the deep South. While Deaton, the youngest, worries about pirates and vampires, and Uncle Marty, family protector, serves up scripture with every bite at the Circle of Life donut shop, somebody is watching.
Somebody unsuspected by Sonny. But at thirteen he knows something's fishy, and he intends to find out what. That's why one Friday after Uncle Marty pays him for dishwashing at the Circle of Life, he sneaks out of town, first by bike and then by bus. Selma, his mama; Mamby; Nissa; Uncle Sink; Aunt Roo; his sister and brother -- nobody from that all-too-serious but often hilarious crew has a clue where he's gone. And even Sonny can't say exactly what he's after, until those tight-lipped tombs start talking, and life in the house on Rhubarb changes for good.