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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
The novel opens, at a train station, with many of the Jenkinsville townspeople, including Patty, awaiting the arrival of the German POWs. The crowd watches as the POWs depart the train and file into the trucks, to be taken away to their prison camp. Patty is slightly disappointed in the lack of action of the event. She walks home after her afternoon at the train station and has lunch with Sharon, her younger sister, and Ruth, their housekeeper. Patty then makes a trip to her parents’ department store. Patty’s mother and father are rude and neglectful towards her.
One Sunday afternoon the Bergens decide to visit Patty’s grandparents in Memphis. Patty’s parents neglect Patty, during the car ride, and show much interest and favoritism in Sharon. When they arrive, Patty’s grandmother makes plans to take Patty out the next week and she gives her money with which to purchase books. As the rest of the family arrives, tension begins to grow. Patty’s mother, Pearl, is jealous of her sister-in-laws, and the attention her parents give her brothers. Pearl’s parents had never been too fond of Harry Bergen.
A few days later Patty observes as a truckload of POWs enter her father’s store. Patty notices Reiker, who is the only POW who can speak English. Patty decides to help Reiker pick out a pocket pencil sharpener and the two strike up a conversation. Before Anton leaves the store he purchases a faux diamond pin. Patty wishes that one day, the two will become friends.
During the summer most of Patty’s acquaintances had gone away to camp; she was left to play with Freddy Dowd one summer afternoon. They decided to play a game where they would throw rocks at the hubcaps of passing by cars. However, when Patty throws a rock at a car riding by, the rock goes out of control and breaks the car window. Patty asks Ruth to lend her the money to repay the car owners; but before she can walk into town to repay them, her father finds out what she did and beats Patty.
Throughout the lonely summer days, Patty had been working on setting up her hideout. One day as she is gazing out the window of her hideout, she sees Anton running along the train tracks. Anton had escaped prison camp and Patty offers him to stay in her hideout. Patty visits Anton everyday and brings him food. They talk and spend the days together.
Eventually the news breaks out that a POW has escaped. The people of Jenkinsville become apprehensive; the FBI goes to the department store to question Harry. Patty’s father told the FBI that he had a recollection of Anton but he did not remember too much about him. When Sister Parker looked at the picture, she remembered that Anton was the boy who had been talking with Patty. The FBI began questioning Patty; she told the FBI what she remembered about her conversation with Anton. However, instead of telling them that Anton had purchased the pin, she told them he purchased a straw hat like the rest of the prisoners.
Charlene Madlee entered the store in search of the Sheriff. Patty volunteered to show her to the Sheriff’s office. The two become friends and discuss their love of words. Patty notes that, one-day, she may want to be a reporter. The two decide to visit the prison camp and Charlene invites Patty to take notes and act as a reporter.
When Patty and Charlene return, Patty takes food and clothes to Anton. She recalls a memory from Father’s day the year earlier: She wanted to get her father something very nice for Father’s day. She bought a nice, Egyptian cotton shirt, complete with her father initials embroidered on it. She envisioned that when she gave him the shirt, he would love it and take her in his arms. When Patty gave her father the shirt, he merely mumbled a ‘thank you’. She tried to emphasize the essence of the shirt but he shunned her, seeming annoyed. Patty decides to give this shirt to Anton.
As Patty and Anton are talking, Patty suddenly becomes very self-conscious. She gets angry with Anton because he has not asked her to come away with him after the war. Patty then feels that Anton is just being nice to her because she is protecting him.
Freddy Dowd came over to play with Patty after she left the hideout. Her mother and father come home and see Patty, far away from the house and with Freddy; her father beats her again for disobeying him. Patty sees Anton run out of his hiding spot toward her and her father and she screams for him to return.
Eventually Patty feels that she must chose between her father and Anton. She feels that if she turns Anton in, her father will gain publicity and then love her. During dinner that evening, Patty was asking her father about his day and he snapped at her, telling her to be quiet and stop asking so many questions; her decision was made.
Later that night, Patty packed up some of her belongings and met Anton in the hideout. Anton told Patty that it was impossible for her to go with him. Patty told Anton that she loved him; he did the same. Before he left the hideout, to catch the train, he kissed Patty and gave her a valuable ring that had been in his family for many generations. He leaves shortly after to catch the train.
Patty misses Anton, after he leaves, but she religiously wears his ring around her neck. Patty goes to the department store after school and Sharon is putting on a little show for some of the Bergens’ friends. The spectators adore Sharon; Patty’s father says that he has thought about taking her straight to Hollywood.
Patty feels the ring has much beauty and power and decides to show it to Sister Parker. When Sister Parker asked Patty where she got the ring, Patty made up a story about feeding an old, hungry man. She claims that after the man was done eating, he gave Patty the ring because she was “obviously a person of value” (161) and he wanted to reward her with his most valuable possession.
Sister Parker called over to Patty’s father asking him if the ring was really gold. He clearly had never seen the ring before and asked Patty where she got it. She told him the same story that she told Sister Parker. Patty’s father becomes extremely angry, thinking that the man had molested Patty. He calls her a “dirty girl” (165) and beats her in the middle of his department store. Patty’s father calls the sheriff to question her about the old man. She re-tells the same story she told Sister Parker and her father. The sheriff believes Patty’s innocent story.
One fall afternoon Patty’s father comes home, bringing members of the FBI. Mr. Pierce, who had questioned Patty earlier in the story, questions her again, about her encounter with the old, hungry man. Patty retells her story. Mr. Pierces shows Patty a picture of Anton and asks if this is the man to who she had given the food. Patty reports that the picture does not resemble the man. Then Mr. Pierce shows Patty the shirt that she had given her father for Father’s Day, which she had given to Anton. The shirt had a tiny tear surrounded by bloodstains. Upon seeing this, Patty lost her composure and asked Mr. Pierce if he had hurt Anton. Patty told Mr. Pierce Anton’s full name; he then reported that Anton had been shot, and killed, that morning while trying to escape arrest in New York.
The FBI takes Patty away for a trial for housing a prisoner of war. Patty’s father says that he wants her taken to Memphis because he knows a lawyer there who he wants to handle the case. Patty and her father have a fight and, as usual her father yells violently at her. Ruth becomes upset and defends Patty. Mr. Bergen becomes furious at Ruth’s interjections and fires her.
Patty goes to stay at her grandmother’s house, in Memphis. While she is there Charlene Madlee calls and makes an appointment to come visit Patty. Charlene discussed the possible penalties with Patty and her grandparents.
For her punishment, Patty must attend reformatory school between four and six months. One morning, Patty awakes in the reformatory and daydreams about visiting Anton’s parents in Germany. The morning bell sounds and she and her roommate, Mavis head down to eat breakfast.
Patty returns to her room after breakfast and Miss Laud, notifies her that Ruth has come to visit. Ruth brought Patty her ring, from Anton, some fried chicken and ginger snaps. Patty asks Ruth if she knows what is wrong with her, since her parents do not love her and she always gets into trouble. Ruth assures Patty that there is nothing wrong with her and that she loves her. She tells Patty that her parents are not good people and that they are the problem, not Patty.
Patty and Ruth discuss Patty’s future career as a reporter. Patty is interested in writing her first article about the conditions at the Bolton Reformatory.
Miss Laud returns and tells Ruth that her visiting time is up and she must leave. Patty becomes upset that she has nothing to give Ruth before she leaves. The book closes with Ruth leaving the reformatory and closing the door in between her and Patty.