Rachel and her grandmother had always had a special, close relationship. Grandmothers living nearby made visiting easy. Grandmother and Rachel sewed, baked and shared confidences. But one day when Rachel stopped for a visit, she found grandmother sick. Although she protested that it was only the flu, the family insisted that she go to the doctor; the diagnosis was terminal cancer.
When Rachel throws herself into a state of denial, even when Grandmother moves in with the family and the course of the illness becomes apparent, Rachels relationships with her friends suffer because she wants to spend as much time as possible with her grandmother. She has not lost feeling for her friends,especially her long-standing boy friend, but she has no time for them She is totally absorbed in watching and interpreting nuances in Grandmothers condition to catch one that will prove that the doctors were wrong. She is overly critical of her brothers and fathers reactions to the stress of grandmother living with them.
It is Grandmothers caring and understanding and communicating with Rachel that finally helps Rachel to accept death as part of life, and to deal with her passing by hoping that there is light on the other side of the wall. The verses of a poem about a rose that grandmother has read with Rachel is symbolic of life. After Grandmother passes, Rachel discovers its last two verses and understands Grandmothers wish for her.
Although the storyline is sad because a loved one is gone, it ends on Rachels happy resumption of her teenage life with a greater understanding of life itself.