The summer that Hattie turns twelve, she meets the childlike uncle she never knew and becomes friends with a girl who works at the carnival that comes to Hattie's small town. Twelve-year-old Hattie learns that living life fully means facing both the good times and the bad upon the closing of her Uncle Adam's "school"- an institution for the mentally disabled.
The summer Hattie turns 12, her predictable small-town life is turned on end when her uncle Adam returns home for the first time in over ten years. Hattie has never met him, never known about him. He's been institutionalized; his condition involves schizophrenia and autism. Hattie, a shy girl who prefers the company of adults, takes immediately to her excitable uncle, even when the rest of the family--her parents and grandparents--have trouble dealing with his intense way of seeing the world. And Adam, too, sees that Hattie is special, that her quiet, shy ways are not a disability.