I can't quite say why, but I loved this book. The heroine is a motherless girl brought up by a terrible father (he is not cruel, just no parenting instincts, lost in his own world and a bit nuts.) She ends up in a household of German immigrants as a sort of mad professor's assistant. The professor is studying a very obscure religious sect and this research is his passion, but no one in American academia cares. His wife was a brilliant physicist in Germany but she is no one in America, so is majorly depressed. There are also four children.
Then there is the Bear Boy, heir to a fortune his father made by writing a series of children's books based on the boy. Bear Boy is now a man and also quite nuts. He is using his fortune to support this family, which is a welcome relief to their poverty but also a source of deep shame. Bear Boy is intrigued by the professor and has designs on the eldest daughter. There are all these odd elements. It reminded me of early John Irving. There is just no interest in anything normal.
Rose, the teller of the story and the heroine, is perhaps the most stable but she has no history of normality and is somewhat detached from it all. Because this is the only family she really has at this point and the only means of support, she tries to help them keep it together. Still, she is disinterested, where I would be trying to fix everything. The person who does fix everything is a complete surprise. You don't see it coming at all and when it comes, you are so immersed in the charms of abnormality that is seems a mixed blessing.
I've thought it over for weeks, but I still can't say what it is that made me love this book so.