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Thirteen-year-old Molly Gerry and her older sister Colleen's world is rocked when their father dies, leaving them penniless. Their best hope seems to be leaving their small Illinois town to work at a Harvey Eating House in Raton, New Mexico. Molly manages to appear 18 (the minimum Harvey Girl age) in order to get the job and soon catches on to the rhythm of life beside the railroad tracks. She continues to struggle with the desire to return home and worries about the fact that the outlaw Genius Jim is still on the loose. Inspired by the author's great-grandmother's experiences, this historical bildungsroman shows life out west in the late 1800s in all its flash and grittiness. Molly is a solidly drawn character, attracted more to cooking than serving and determined to be honest and fair in her work. The outlaws provide spice, and the romance Molly tries to conjure up for Colleen gives humor. The values of education, courage, and simplicity all come together in this delightful tale.