In the book A Long Way from Chicago, Mary Alice is Joey Dowdel's sister. Mary Alice is seven when the children make the journey to visit their grandmother in 1929. Mary Alice is cynical in her theory that she and her brother are being dumped upon their grandmother. She has a distaste for the town where her grandma lives. She especially hates that the privy is an old outhouse out back.
Mary Alice has a tantrum when she realizes the trips to visit her grandmother will be expected to occur every summer. She wants to spend her time with her friends and not with her grandma. She is also prone to making up stories and acting dramatic to get her way. Mary Alice is scared of mice and stubborn. She is also somewhat stronger-willed than her brother and not nearly as faint-hearted.
Mary Alice adapts to the environment at her grandma's home through participating in activities with her grandma. She is also a hard worker when the need arises. In many ways, she is a younger version of her grandmother.