Miriam is not pleased to leave her beloved New York City home after her parents’ take on the job of running the Jewel Motor Inn, a shabby motel in a small upstate town. Miriam and her whole family, which includes her parents and her little brother, make the journey to their new home. Once there, Miriam meets her new neighbors and learns about the community. She strikes up a special friendship with Maria who works as a maid at the Jewel. Miriam befriends other local residents, as well, including a girl named Kate, and Kate’s grandmother, Mrs. Whitley, who often enlists Miriam to help make her famous grape pies at the local diner. Miriam enjoys spending time with her Uncle Mordy who comes to visit, and encourages his niece to face her fear of swimming. Although Miriam begins to acclimate to her new home, tensions grow as the Jewel’s business remains slow.
After she and Kate come up with a tricky, disingenuous plan in hopes of attracting new guests to the Jewel, Miriam must face the consequences of her decisions and realizes the impact of her choices on her community, her peers, and her family. Religion plays a key role in Miriam’s personal growth. The family is observant, her uncle more so, and a variety of details about Jewish life are peppered throughout the story. Maria and Kate are Catholic. Through their friendships, Miriam learns about religious beliefs outside of her own, ultimately discovering the joy that exists in celebrating their differences.
The author introduces some difficult topics, such as antisemitism, in an engaging way for middle grade audiences.