Hattie Owen is a twelve year old girl who lives with her mom and dad in Millerton. Her family lives in and runs a boardinghouse. Hattie is an only child. Hattie is shy and independent and does not have many friends her own age. She only has one very good friend, Betsy, who is not even around in the summer. Hattie has many friends who are adults. She is especially close with the boarders who live in her house. Even though Hattie is shy, she learns to speak up for herself and express her feelings. Hattie is able to teach her family a lot about love and acceptance. She is the main protagonist in the story.
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Adam Mercer is Hattie”s uncle. He is 21 years old and is mentally disabled. Adam”s parents (Hattie”s grandparents) sent him away to a special school when he was a young child. Adam comes home for the summer because his school closed, and he needs a place to live. Hattie had never heard of Adam until he came home that summer. Adam is a small man, only a little bit taller than Hattie. His face is intense, even when he smiles. Even though Adam is 21 years old, his mental challenges make him act like a child, which is very embarrassing to Hattie”s grandmother. It makes Hattie feel like she has to take care of Adam like she is his mother rather than just his niece. Adam is thoughtful and caring, but he has trouble controlling his emotions, especially in stressful situations. He can get very angry and out of control. He is very aware of what people think of him. He wants to be happy and be accepted by others. One of the things Adam loves is the show “I Love Lucy.”Hattie thinks he likes this show because Lucy is an imperfect person just like Adam is.
Jonathan Owen is Hattie”s father. He is an artist and has a free spirit. Hattie”s grandparents disapprove of Jonathan because he runs a boardinghouse and does not have a “real” job. Nana thinks her daughter married beneath her. Jonathan is very smart and does not let Nana and Papa control him. Hattie thinks her father is a really interesting person. He likes to paint, work in their garden, fix things that are broken, take photographs and make home movies.
Dorothy Owen is Hattie”s mother and Adam”s sister. Dorothy is caring and loves her family.Dorothy”s mother(Hattie”s grandmother – Hattie calls her Nana)is very demanding, and Dorothy is confused as to whether she should please her mother or live happily the way she wants to live. Hattie thinks thather motheralways gives in to Nana”s demands and does not stand up for herself. Hattie eventually learns that her mother really is independent. She married Hattie”s father even though Nana did not approve, and they run a boardinghouse, which is an embarrassment to Nana. In the end of the book, Hattie learns that her mother had always been a loving and caring sister to Adam. All the years that he was away, Hattie”s mother had been sending him letters and presents. She always loved and respected her brother.
Hayden Mercer is Hattie”s grandfather. Hattie calls him Papa. He is a lawyer and an important person in Millerton. He is a quiet man, but he is strong.
Harriett Mercer is Hattie”s grandmother. Hattie calls her Nana. Nana is very controlling and makes many demands on her family. Nana lives inbig house with many servants. She is very important in the town and is very worried about public appearances and how people look and act. She also expects to get what she wants and expects everyone, especially her family, to act and behave in a proper and perfect way. She is embarrassed by her son, Adam, because he is mentally disabled and cannot act the way she wants him to. Adam”s actions annoyNana, and she does not always respect or appreciate him for who he is. Hattie feelsthat Nana is much too strict, but Nana really believes she is doing what is right for her family.
Mr. Penny is a boarder living in the Owen”s boardinghouse. He is a clock maker who has lived in the boardinghouse for many years. Mr. Penny remembersAdam very well from before he left for school.
Miss Hagertyis a boarder living in the Owen”s boardinghouse. She has been living there for many years. She remembers Adam from before he was sent away, and, when Adam comes home to Millerton, they become friends again right away. Miss Hagerty does not go downstairs for breakfast because she does not want anyone to see her without makeup. So, Hattie brings her breakfast up to her room every morning. Hattie and Miss Hagerty have lemonade together every day on the porch. Hattie is very close to Miss Hagerty and considers her like a grandmother.
Leila is the daughter of Fred Carmel of Fred Carmel”s Funtime Carnival. When Hattie and Leila meet at the carnival, they quickly become friends. Leila is fun and energetic. Leila accepts Adam just the way he is, and Hattie likes that about her.
Angel Valentine is the youngest and newest boarder living in the Owen”s boardinghouse. Angel is very beautiful, and she works in the bank. When Adam meets her, he immediately has a crush on her. When Adam seesAngel with her boyfriend, he is devastated. Later that day, Adam hangs himself. Hattie blames Angel for Adam”s death.