Chapters eleven & twelve

Summary: Chapter eleven, Part 1

The story shifts back to before Lydia’s death. Nathan packs for his visit to Harvard, showing Lydia his new shirt that makes him look like a new person. Later, Lydia and Nathan share a moment looking at the wash of stars in the sky. Before Nathan leaves, Lydia makes him promise to call her from Harvard, but he doesn’t. With Nathan gone, Lydia takes more notice of Hannah. She spies her locket around Hannah’s neck, slaps Hannah, and yanks the necklace off her. She makes Hannah promise to never wear the necklace again because Hannah shouldn’t want it. 

Later, Lydia calls Nathan, who is at a party. He responds coldly and tells Lydia to talk to Jack about her problems. Nathan now feels like a stranger to Lydia. Wanting to transform herself, Lydia decides to lose her virginity to Jack the next day. But Jack gently turns her down. Lydia demands a reason, and Jack says it’s because of Nathan. Lydia realizes that the sex Jack has with girls is a cover for his being in love with Nathan. Feeling foolish, Lydia becomes angry. Jack tells her that he at least knows what he wants. Lydia storms off, threatening to reveal Jack’s secret.

Summary: Chapter eleven, Part 2

Heading home, Lydia realizes she is still holding a box of condoms and stuffs them in her bookbag. That night over dinner, Nathan tells his family about his trip. Lydia keeps asking herself how everything had gone so wrong. The answer that comes to her at 2 a.m. compels her to go down to the lake. Sitting on the dock, Lydia realizes how long she’s been afraid of losing her family and relied on Nathan. She remembers feeling relief from the pressure of her parents’ dreams and love when Nathan pushed her in the water. Lydia decides to start over, this time doing what she wants and being responsible for her own well-being. To prove to herself that she can save her own life, Lydia takes the rowboat out into the middle of the lake and deliberately steps out of the boat into the water with the plan to kick her way back to shore, even though she can’t swim.

Summary: Chapter twelve, Part 1

Back in the present after Lydia’s death, James drives home to make things right with Marilyn. At home, he sees Hannah hugging herself on the living room floor. Hannah doesn’t tell James that she and her mom have been curled up together crying on Lydia’s bed, where Marilyn fell asleep. She also doesn’t tell James that the police brought a drunk but calm Nathan home. Instead, she shows her father the footprint on the ceiling, and they laugh together. James describes a game he used to play with Lydia, and Hannah asks him to play it with her. 

When Marilyn wakes up, she finds James happily snuggling with Hannah. James confirms that he is home to stay. Hannah leaves her parents to talk, and Marilyn and James reconnect emotionally and physically, beginning to tell each other things they haven’t before. James never talks to Louisa again, though he feels bad about this. In the middle of the night, Marilyn goes to Lydia’s room, wishing Lydia were asleep inside. Opening the door, she sees Hannah asleep in Lydia’s bed and is grateful to still have Hannah.

Summary: Chapter twelve, Part 2

The next morning Jack walks his dog down to the lake. Seeing Jack, Nathan goes to the lake to confront him. Hannah follows Nathan and tries to tell him that what happened to Lydia is not Jack’s fault. Nathan asks Jack what happened between him and Lydia. Jack feels surprised that Lydia didn’t tell Nathan his secret. Realizing that Nathan needs someone to blame for what happened to Lydia, Jack lets Nathan hit him without hitting back. Hannah, upset and crying, pushes Nathan into the water to make him stop. Momentarily sinking, Nathan thinks about Lydia’s final moments. He wants to let himself drown, but his instinct to swim won’t let him. Jack extends a hand to pull Nathan out of the water, and Nathan accepts. 

As the story concludes, it refers to all that will come—the way the Lees will continue to try to understand what happened to Lydia, the way Hannah will blossom and Nathan will become an astronaut and come to feel tenderly about Jack. But in that moment at the lake, as Nathan surfaces and takes Jack’s hand, he keeps his eyes on Hannah’s face.

Analysis: Chapters eleven & twelve

The final section of the book explores the possibility that the Lee family might escape the fear that has always controlled them. During Nath's time at Harvard, Lydia recognizes that like her, Nath deserves to break free from the limitations of their family and home. When Lydia kisses Jack only to realize that she is not the object of his affection, she is angry that she can't use her relationship with him to rebel against the constraints placed upon her. However, she realizes that it is not really Jack that she's angry with but herself, for having lived so long within boundaries that are partially self-imposed. When she promised to do whatever it took to prevent her mother from leaving again, Lydia sacrificed her uniqueness and independence out of fear of abandonment. In deciding that she can make her family understand who she is and what she wants to do, she is resolving to live without fear. She believes that the family she has held together with lies will be strong enough to withstand her truth. But rather than Lydia’s immersion in the lake acting as a renewal, it kills her, cruelly illustrating that the gap from resolution to action was too far to span.

Unlike Lydia, her parents will be able to move on with their lives. With Lydia's death acting as a kind of terrible sacrifice and devastating inspiration, they begin to rebuild their own relationship, which they have neglected for years. Their own fears—of their pasts, of one another's motives, of the future hinging on the success of a teenage girl—begin to abate. When Lydia was alive, their focus on her was all-consuming, and they were unable to see past her and everything they had invested in her. Now, having lived through the worst fear and pain that any parent can endure, they are able to acknowledge their pasts and move forward into a future where healing is possible.