Bernstein's narrative begins long before the void-filling love affair actually takes place and relives all the significant events from his childhood memories from how his mother earned money to care for her family to the way his alcoholic father stormed out of the house each night. Bernstein introduces you to all his neighbors - on both sides of the street - and retells events significant in their lives too.
The memoir is so engaging and the story is so accessible that before you know it, you're living young Harry's life right beside him - saddened when he's denied admission to a better school because of his shoes (and his religion,) tearful when he witnesses the death of a war veteran, and heartened when he first becomes an uncle.
Additionally appealing is that this story is real. It's not some fictionalized tale about overcoming prejudices and uniting under the commonality of humanity. This is the childhood of one boy who saw both hate and love emanate from one tiny street, a microcosm of an entire "era" in our history.