The story starts out with a fifteen year old, Jewish boy, Reuven Malter, getting ready for a softball game against Danny Saunder's yeshiva team. Tension arises during the game because names are called against the teams. In the final inning, Reuven is pitching. He pitches the ball to Danny and Danny hits a line drive right into Reuven's eye. Glass is shattered everywhere apiece gets stuck in his eye. Reven is rushed to a hospital where he spends a week recuperating. While he is in the hospital he makes two friends. Tony Savio, an ex-boxer, and Billy Merrit, a blind boy. While Reuven is in the hospital, Danny comes to visit him. Danny reveals that he has a photographic memory, and that the Talmud doesn't challenge him. Danny states that he goes to the public library to read books (his father doesn't approve of Danny reading books). He says that there is a man who recommends books for Danny.
They both are surprised when they find out that it is Reven's father.
After Reuven gets out of the hospital, Reuven spends Shabbat afternoons at Danny's house. Danny introduces him to his father, Rabbi Reb Saunders. Reuven also witnesses a public quiz that Reb Saunders gives to Danny during their congregation's Shabbat meal. Danny and Reuven start to spend most of their time in the library in the afternoon, and Saturdays studying the Talmud with Reb Saunders. Reuven finds out that Reb Saunders believes in raising his son in silence. Reb Saunders never talks to his son except when they study the Talmud. Meanwhile, almost everyone in the novel is obsessed with news about World War II. President Roosevelt's death in April 1945 saddens the entire country. In May, Reuven and his father celebrate the end of the war...