Study Guide

Alan in The Usual Rules

By Joyce Maynard


When Wendy moves to Davis and starts skipping out on school altogether, she spends much of her time at Alan's bookstore downtown. At first, Wendy doesn't trust Alan with the details of her real life; she even gives him a false name and backstory. But Alan is caring and lets her do her own thing, which helps Wendy sort through the difficulties of her own life. He recommends books that he thinks she'll like, and when she mentions something about child abuse, he even gives her the name and number of someone she can contact—just in case:

About the other issue, he said. The child-abuse question. I've been doing a little research for you.

You didn't need to, she said. After she'd left that time, she'd gotten worried what he might do. Suppose he reported her to the authorities as a victim?

I got the name of a person you could talk to, he said. For your friend. (26.4-6)

Over time, Wendy gets to know Alan and his own story. She learns that he's married and has a grown son named Tim who is autistic and lives in a group home. Alan's a good father and goes to visit Tim regularly, even bringing him laundry to do (because Tim loves the laundromat):

Alan had saved up all their laundry. When they got to the place where his son lived, he took a big bag of dirty clothes out of the trunk, that he carried in with him. Also a tin of cookies and a box of Legos. (26.17)

Alan is a good guy, and this shows through in the way that he treats Wendy, and more importantly, his own son.