Buddy, whose real name is Amy Kate, has never thought much about her nickname -- it is what her father has called her for years -- until three things happen: Her father, who has gone off to take a new job, disappears; she and her brother are evicted from the house in which they have been living because they can't pay the rent; and she has to leave Washington state to go live with relatives in Montana until her brother can find out what has happened to their father. It is in Montana where she encounters people who think her name is strange, who wonder why a girl is called Buddy.
But in Montana, living with Aunt Addie; Aunt Cassie and her alcoholic husband, Gus; Gus's son, Max; and Grandpa, who is really Buddy's great-grandfather, Buddy has more than her name to think about. Why does Aunt Addie seem to hate Buddy's dead mother, EllaBelle? What happened to the money that Grandpa got from the sale of his store two and a half years ago, and what does that money have to do with Buddy and her mother? And finally, what has happened to Dan, Buddy's father?
As Buddy confronts relatives she has hardly known, and a new school where everything seems strange and different, she must accept some of what she finds and make the best of it. She must, for example, take Grandpa as he is: old, almost blind, and afflicted with dementia. Other things she can hope may change: Her brother may find her father, Aunt Addie may forgive her mother, and maybe she'll make a new friend. And still others, she realizes, she must investigate on her own: She must solve the mysteries of her mother's past and the disappearance of Grandpa's money.
Things happen quickly as Buddy explores her new and, she hopes, temporary, life. As she does, the concerns of years past suddenly come into focus, as if they were waiting for Buddy to appear. An engaging novel about a spunky heroine and a family with problems that are unique, and yet in some ways all too common.