When mum has to suddenly and permanently take to her bed after collapsing on Christmas Day, sixteen year old Mull (Nadine Garner) finds herself in charge of a muddled household: a recently “reborn Christian” father (Bill Hunter) whose shift work and natural reticence means he communicates with the kids via notes that end in biblical quotes which are left on the kitchen table; an older brother (Steven, an apprentice sign writer) who spends all his time out of the house trying to start up a rock band with his best friend Guido (with whom Mull just happens to be madly in love) ; a younger sister, Jodie, who is addicted to late night horror movies and a younger brother, Alan, who reads physics books over his morning cereal.
Mum’s illness is all the excuse Mull needs to give up school to devote herself full time to looking after this interesting family collection. But it isn’t as simple as it seems, even though it’s a role that Mull finds herself able to slip into without too much difficulty.
The pressures on her are great. Even though she is able to get some time to herself and the occasional advice- cum confessional session with her good friend Helen, Mull finds herself increasingly drawn into day to day trivia of running a household. She becomes involved in trying to sort out the tensions and domestic arguments that seem to have risen to the surface since Mum’s been confined to bed.
She also uncovers some startling truths about each of her family. Alan is severely traumatized as he tumbles into puberty by the fundamentalist religious garbage he has been fed. Steve has a bout with drugs. Her father takes to heavy drinking. She discovers Steven and Guido are lovers. And Mum is really dying.
Over the year until Mum’s death Mull copes with the problems and deals with the crises with considerable skill and selflessness. After the funeral and things return to normal, Mull can look back on the insights the year has given her about her family and herself and start planning for her future – just as soon as Christmas dinner is out of the way.