In learning about their upbringings, it becomes clear that, though they had quite different family lives, they both arrived at a desire for the same ideal: a strong, intact family life. Family arrives for the summer holiday, but not Molly and Frederick who cannot forgive Harriet for bringing Ben back from the institution. The most obvious character that is unaware of the entirety of his actions is none other than Ben. At Christmas, the older children decline to return home, spending the holidays with their grandparents instead. It is an unspoken thought between every character in the novel that Ben is different - alien almost - however, this is not his fault.
Frederick and Molly agree to look for an institution where Ben can be put in. She assumes that her mother and sisters will take up the work of hosting so that she might enjoy the festive atmosphere without having to do much of the labor herself. It is revealed that Harriet grew up one of three daughters, to parents Harriet is proud to say never divorced. By the time they have four children, two boys and two girls, their house becomes a centre of joy not only for them but for all their relatives and friends who come and visit. All these things affected Ben in a bad way and turned everyone against him. Dorothy wishes there were two of her so she might help both Sarah and Harriet, and occasionally she leaves the Lovatt house to help Sarah instead. Brett, but the doctor insists there is nothing out of the ordinary, prescribing her a sedative for her nerves.
They want as many as six kids, a truth they know they should keep to themselves for fear of judgment. Don Smith is a Senior Trainer with the Great Books Foundation. Molly suggests that James should visit, and soon afterwards he arrives with his wife, Jessica. Ben could have been treated as Amy was, they could have seen his unusualness as a mental disorder but they choose not to. Even though David opposes to it, she says that she has to. A young man named John does yard work for the family and Ben takes a liking to him.
Doctors, school psychologists and other people from outside the family do not see what Harriet sees in Ben. Harried still tried to reach out to Ben to see what he was really thinking. A precedent is set for a child being born in less than ideal circumstances in the discord established between Sarah and William, as well as the idea of a family staying together because of hard times, rather than being pulled apart by them. David remains detached from Ben. The relatives feel that something bad is going to happen sooner or later.
When living purely in the moments created in the family, the bliss is overwhelming, causing confusion when they feel judged by others for their happiness. Harriet and David finally decided to sell the house and live in a smaller more affordable house. As soon as the house is theirs, Harriet and David abandon their pragmatic plan to wait to have children. Almost immediately, though, Harriet becomes pregnant, giving birth to Luke in 1966. Molly comments that raising children is a lot of work, and David says it will not be so bad for Harriet as it was for Molly because Harriet is maternal, a slight Molly takes with a grain of salt. Ben continued to hang out with his friends doing and living on his own.
This suggests that there is nothing magical about Ben. Again, Dorothy withholds her judgment, instead focusing on the pragmatics of what the situation will require of her. It is as if his family wants him to be a goblin and refuse to see him as a mentally challenged human child. Ben begins to talk in short sentences, mimicking the speech and action of his siblings, but unable to replicate these gestures on his own. Just after Christmas in 1966, Harriet gives birth to Luke in the family bed.
Nevertheless, he is named Ben and is offered as much love, support and time as his siblings. He, Ben, is called a goblin, a troll, a dwarf, a gnome, a freak, a monster, an alien, a savage, a changeling, and a Neanderthal. At Easter, William speaks up, saying what the rest of the family is thinking: that Harriet and David should stop having children. For a while the family is happy, but Harriet misses her son too much and, over David's objections, retrieves Ben from what she believes to be a life of inevitable, painful suffering and death. They looked like they were on the verge of dying. They choose to just see him as something evil and strange.
In the mid-1960s, David and Harriet spot each other across the room at their office Christmas party and know immediately that they are meant for one another. Seeing this, she knows she must bring him home. The family is nervous to leave their kids around Ben in fear of him hurting them also. The baby moves inside Harriet too early, too violently. Harriet finds herself pregnant again the same year and the whole family celebrates Christmas at their house. He is then completely in want of empathy, fails to find appropriate words to talk about what he really feels, instead he becomes mean and sarcastic, and he either represses or lacks feelings of compassion. One day she decided that she had to go visit Ben to see how he was holding up.
She realizes that her only way of controlling him is to threaten to take him back to the institution, which proves effective in mitigating his destructive behavior. The cause of his unusual behavior can be viewed from different angles. One afternoon, Molly and Frederick visit, surprised at the size of the house and at the large family that David and Harriet have planned. Harriet, when viewed from across, the room forms little more than a pastel blur: unfashionable, stern, a body better suited for gardening than dancing. When old-fashioned David and Harriet meet at their office Christmas party, they fall in love and decide to marry.