Penny is an eleven-year-old girl growing up in New Jersey in the 1950s. She loves to spend time with her large Italian-American family, particularly because they provide a connection to the father who died when she was very young. Penny lives with her mother and maternal grandparents, and while she certainly loves them as well, she often becomes frustrated with them in ways she does not with her father’s family. Penny hates the way her mother and grandparents deflect all her questions about her father and refuse to discuss him at all. She also resents her mother and grandmother’s sometimes unreasonably strict rules meant to protect her from every possible danger.
Penny’s number one interest is the Brooklyn Dodgers, an obsession she shares with her deceased father and his brothers. Penny is also a bit of tomboy and continues to play baseball with the neighborhood kids, even though the other girls her age merely watch. Penny is generally a responsible, hard-working young woman: she takes a summer job at her uncle’s butcher shop and makes her own decision to give her earnings to her mother. However, Penny does occasionally allow her cousin and best friend, Frankie, to lead her into trouble. She takes part in his schemes to discover Grandfather Falucci’s hidden fortune, and she lets Frankie convince her to sneak off to the public pool even though she is strictly forbidden.
Overall, however, Penny’s most salient characteristic is her intense love and loyalty for her entire family. At the end of the novel, when Penny is surrounded by both sides of her family, her heart becomes “so full I think I’ll burst, knowing what a lucky girl I am.”
Penny’s mother has had to raise her daughter on her own after the untimely death of her husband when Penny was just a baby. Penny’s mother has never really gotten over her husband’s death and is generally sad, serious and a bit withdrawn. She is also determined to keep Penny safe from any potential danger or tragedy, even when doing so requires her to be quite strict. However, as the novel continues, Penny’s mother begins a relationship with Mr. Mulligan and gradually learns how to be happy again. By the end of the novel, Penny’s mother has married Mr. Mulligan and put her husband’s death behind her; while she will always love her first husband, she finally allows herself to enjoy life and move forward. She even considers returning to the nursing profession she left after her husband’s death.
Penny’s Uncle Dominic is a bit of an eccentric and a hermit—he lives in his car and avoids interacting with most people, even his family. Penny says she thinks Uncle Dominic prefers...
(The entire section is 1131 words.)