Because A Long Way from Chicago is a young adult novel, it also happens to showcase the journey that Joey and Mary Alice take from childhood to young adulthood. Each chapter highlights another summer that the kids spend at Grandma's, and over time, we get to see them grow up and become teenagers.
By the very end of the book, it's clear that Mary Alice is a young woman and that she's got plenty of grace and beauty—and will soon have boyfriends knocking at the door. And Joey has learned how to drive and is on the cusp of adulthood…and will later go on to serve in World War II.
Questions About Coming of Age
How does Joey and Mary Alice's relationship with their grandmother change as they get older?
How does Joey's relationship with Mary Alice change as the siblings grow up?
Why does Joey want to learn how to drive a car so badly?
Chew on This
Throughout the book, Joey is always trying to find ways to be a grown-up and the "man of the house" when he's at his grandmother's. But at the end of the book when he actually is a man and going off to war, he misses the protection of Grandma Dowdel, and that's why he looks for her as he rides through the town.
One of the things that changes over the course of the novel is that as Joey and Mary Alice get older and older, they become more tolerant of one another…and even approach something like friendship.