Lindsay Lackey

All the Impossible Things

  • This summary of All the Impossible Things includes a complete plot overview – spoilers included!
  • We’re considering expanding this synopsis into a full-length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's important.
  • Want to see an expanded study guide sooner? Click the Upvote button below.

All the Impossible Things Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of All the Impossible Things by Lindsay Lackey.

In Lindsay Lackey’s middle-grade magical realism novel, All the Impossible Things (2019), a young girl must come to terms with her hidden supernatural abilities, and if she doesn’t conceal them from her new foster family, they might give her up for good. Critics praise the book for its blend of fantasy and realism and its exploration of complex family themes. Lackey once trained as an opera singer. Before writing full-time, she worked in the children’s section of the public library and handled publicity for a major publishing house. All the Impossible Things is her debut novel.

All the Impossible Things is set in Denver, Colorado. Eleven-year-old protagonist Ruby, whom everyone knows as Red, has spent the last three years in the foster care system, not having any close friends or family she can count on. Her mother is in prison, but it’s still a while before she will be released. Having lived unsuccessfully with foster parents before, Red craves stability in her life.

Red’s main problem is that she often gets upset. When she loses her temper, she accidentally causes storms and tornadoes. Unable to control this power, she recognizes that she will never have a stable life if she can’t learn to curb her emotions. She believes no family will want her if they know that she’s different.

Finally, Red moves in with new foster parents, Celine and Jackson Groove. They’re nice elderly people who care about her wellbeing. Knowing she has had a difficult upbringing, they’re determined to give her the stability she so desperately craves. Unlike some adults, they don’t care that her mother is in jail. They’re only interested in Red and how to make her happy.

At first, Red doesn’t know what to make of Celine and Jackson. They run a petting zoo filled with rescued animals, and Red worries that she’s just another project to them. However, the animals quickly win her over. She’s especially fond of Tuck, the oversized tortoise, the donkey who lives with the chickens, treating them like his own family, and the tree-climbing goat.

Soon after moving in with Celine and Jackson, Red meets Marvin. The same age as Red, he is looking for a friend. He teaches her all about his Hawaiian culture and makes her feel special. Red realizes that they have plenty in common, and for the first time, she enjoys companionship. For the first time in her life, she feels safe, wanted, and secure; she just knows that a storm will come along and wreck everything.

The storm, however, isn’t the one that Red expects. It’s her mother. Her mother was released from prison months ago, and she’s moving for custody. Although Red can’t wait to see her mother, she doesn’t want to live with her. She’s angry that her mother hasn’t tried to see her or make contact until now. Red’s anger stirs up a tornado inside her; if she doesn’t control her emotions, she’ll cause a catastrophic storm.

Everything changes again when Red finally visits her mother, who convinces Red that she has changed and wants them to be a family again. Despite her fears, Red decides she wants to live with her mother again. Although Celine and Jackson think Red is better off living with them, they give her the space she needs to make up her own mind.

Red spends her time counting down the days until her mother’s custody hearing. If she’s not thinking about her mother, she’s caring for the animals or hanging out with Marvin. She confesses to Marvin that she’ll miss him and everyone else because they’re like her family now. He tells her that she doesn’t have to leave, but she is adamant that she belongs with her mother.

Despite Marvin’s continued protests, he agrees to help Red make a custody video for the judge. In the video, Red claims how badly she wants to live with her mother again, and how she doesn’t want to stay in foster care. She worries that the video might hurt the Grooves, but it’s a risk she is willing to take.

Everything falls apart when Red’s mother starts taking drugs and drinking again. Her serious addiction problem is only getting worse. Finally, Red sees for herself that her mother is not fit to raise her. Unfortunately, Celine has just been diagnosed with cancer and is not sure she’s up to raising a child.

In the end, Red’s mother gives up her custody battle. She recognizes that, if she loves Red, it’s time to let her go. Celine’s cancer is treatable, and the doctors work out a care plan. As long as Red helps to run the petting zoo, Celine and Jackson can manage. Marvin is delighted that he won’t lose his friend. As the storm inside Red dissipates, she thinks she won’t cause storms ever again.