Lucky Strikes, by Louis Bayard, opens with the death of Melia’s mother.
“Mama died hard. you should know that.”
She is 14 years old and now the head of her family. It’s the depression, but she can run the gas station her Mama established. Melia is rough, but smart. She knows she needs to come up with a plan to keep her two siblings (Earle and Janey) and herself out of the hands of the good women of Walnut Ridge, Virginia, who will surely want to put them all in separate foster homes.
Melia has never met her father and Mama told her nothing. Janey and Earle’s father is in jail. So, the arrival of a drunken hobo named Hiram seems to be the answer to her prayers. He can pose as her father so the family can stay together while she figures out how to make it all work until she is legally old enough.
Forces work against her: do-gooders who want to split the family; a local man who wants to take over her gas station. But forces also work for her. Although she is foul-mouthed and unpolished, Melia has a heart of gold. The truckers who stop at her station, Hiram and several other characters are drawn to the small family and, though not related by blood, are like family.