Hattie, who turns twelve during the course of the summer, is an introverted girl who enjoys her family and a quiet life with the tenants of the boarding house her parents run. A bit socially awkward, Hattie struggles to make conversation with strangers and to feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Through Hattie and her unusual friendships, Martin showcases how friends of different types and ages can be fulfilling and bring happiness. Hattie’s sensitivity also provides a sympathetic platform for Adam, her mentally handicapped cousin, to be seen in a positive light. Throughout the course of the novel, Hattie grows up as she sheds some of her more childlike perceptions for more mature understandings of the world around her.
Hattie’s twenty-two-year-old uncle, Adam is mentally handicapped, exhibiting symptoms of autism or schizophrenia. For most of his life, he was kept in a special boarding house specially designed to help people like him, but when his school closes he comes back home to live with his strict and proper parents, Nana and Papa. Adam wears his emotions on his sleeve; he is unable to filter and modify his feelings and behaviors toward others. He swings from joyously exuberant to tempestuous in a matter of minutes. However, he is quite funny, a great listener, and makes each person feel like they are the only person alive when he is with them. He also is a genius with numbers; he can identify what day of the week on which any date in history occurred. Adam shows struggles that mentally handicapped people have—the frustration and embarrassment of family members, the judgment from strangers, and the constant battle to be accepted and loved. In the end, Adam’s trials are too overwhelming for him, and he takes his own life. Through his character, the reader is given a sympathetic and comprehensive view of living as a disabled person and how family and friends are also affected.
Jonathan is Hattie’s father. He is an artist who helps run the family boarding house. He is kind, tolerant, and a patient example of love in Hattie’s life....
(The entire section is 890 words.)