The main character’s name is Jack Gantos who lives in Norvelt, PA, same as the author who really did grow up in a town called Norvelt. How much of this is autobiographical and how much is exaggerated, I'm not sure. Regardless, in this story, Jack is a teenager who lives in the a progressive town of Norvelt, which has fallen into disrepair. This novel takes place in a time period that is fuzzy-I’d guess somewhere in the late1950’s/early 1960’s as that coordinates with his age and some of the events in the story but I’m not sure.
Jack’s summer begins full of promise until a gun of his father’s went off in his hands, wreaking havoc. After that, he was “grounded for life” and had to find creative outlets to entertain himself. He loves to read and dives into history books. His mother did let him visit his elderly neighbor Miss. Volker, whose hands were so arthritic she needed Jack to help her write her parts of the newspaper--the obituaries and the history on this day. As he spent more time with Miss Volker, he genuinely enjoyed the activities and looked forward to the calls, allowing him to escape the prison he called home. The accounts of the adventures of Jack and Miss Volker are entertaining but at times the story is distracted and a bit too hard to believe or seems disjointed in a novel that is supposed to be realistic fiction. I do like the character of Jack as well as the personality of Miss Volker, as they both are quirky and interesting but found parts of it a bit unrealistic.