Clara Purdy was living a quiet life in Saskatoon, working in an insurance office and living by herself in the home she grew up in. Then she ran her car into a Dodge Dart owned by a family that was moving to Fort MacMurray. They had been living in the car for a while as they had very little money. The family consisted of father (Clayton), mother (Lorraine), Clayton's mother Mrs.Pell, children Darlene, Trevor and Pearce. No one was badly hurt in the accident but while at the hospital it was noticed that Lorraine had some peculiar bruises, not caused by the crash. After some tests she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma which would require extensive treatment. Clara decided to open her house to the family so they would have a place to stay while Lorraine was receiving treatment. Little did she know what she was getting herself in for. After one night Clayton disappeared in Clara's mother's car. Mrs. Pell can not be trusted to look after the children while Clara goes out to visit Lorraine. It becomes clear to Clara that she has to take a leave of absence from work. Fortunately Clara (who is soon called Clary by the children and everyone else) has some assistance from her next door neighbour, Mrs. Zenko (everyone should have a next door neighbour like her) and her cousins who live just outside of Saskatoon. Clayton manages to get in touch with Lorraine's brother, Darwin, (by using Clara's phone calling card) and he comes to stay in Lorraine's room at night which removes some burden from Clara. And then there is the Anglican priest at Clara's church, Paul Tipett, who has personal problems of his own but manages to provide some support for Clara.
I really loved how all the characters grew throughout the book. Darlene discovers the solace that books can give and what book lover could resist that even though Darlene is also a sneak and a thief. Clara is not just a person who helps others, she is also using them to enrich her own life. Even Mrs. Pell, a disgrace to grandmotherhood, has some emotional depth.
I think this would be an excellent book for a book club. There is lots of room to discuss everyone's motives and the ending should provide lots of fodder for discussion too. I imagine one of the questions would be "What would you do in a situation like this?" I doubt if I, personally, would be able to step up like Clara did. I wouldn't want my comfortable life changed to the extent that hers was. I hope I would try to put the family in touch with agencies that could help them and I would check on them from time to time but I wouldn't take them into my home. But then I wouldn't have the kind of enriching experience that Clara had.