The surreal quality of Dubosarsky's novel sets it apart from the usual crop of middle-school problem novels about families. Twelve-year-old Geraldine's life is becoming increasingly unsettling: her parents are behaving oddly, and her sister Violetta, who has problems of her own, believes their father's business is going bankrupt. Adding to the chaos is Alberta, an escaped guinea pig that Geraldine has reluctantly been minding for a classmate. Together with her neighbor, Ezra, a vegetarian and an animal liberationist with a fearful secret, Geraldine searches for Alberta who, like an apparition, looms unexpectedly. Geraldine's father's shadowy friends, Ezra's off-beat relatives, and a variety of odd and mysterious strangers wander in and out of the story--until the finale, when everyone appears (including Alberta), the truth emerges, and Geraldine and Violetta make sense of it all and even find hope for the future.