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Summary: Chapter 16: Chip off the Old Block

With his hand still over Max’s mouth, Max’s father tells him that it’s time for him to get to know his own son. He says that people have poisoned Max against him. He makes Max sit up and warns him not to make any noise while putting his clothes and shoes on. He tells Max that they will have an adventure.

Max’s father gets his first good look at Max under a streetlight and calls him a chip off the old block. He tells Max they’re starting over, and in time Max will see the truth. They begin walking fast, past the millpond. Max knows where they’re headed, to the Testaments, to Loretta and Iggy’s place.

Loretta and Iggy are waiting. Max and his dad enter the apartment, and Iggy locks the door behind them. Iggy, Loretta, and Kenny argue a bit over Loretta’s drinking, and she falls asleep on the couch. Iggy fries up some hamburgers, which Max and his dad eat. Loretta wakes up, and Kenny says he’s ready to see the place Iggy told him about. He tells Max to come with them.

Summary: Chapter 17: By All That’s Holy

Iggy takes Max and his dad down a back alley to the apartment of a woman who has gone out of town for the holidays. Iggy leaves them there, and after checking for a back exit, and scrounging for some rope, Kenny ties Max’s hands and feet. 

The apartment is dark, and Max doesn’t want to move since he doesn’t know if his dad is asleep or awake. After a while, Kenny starts talking, telling Max that he was locked up like an animal, and his life was stolen from him. Max’s grandparents have always hated him, he says, and the police didn’t know the truth. He tells Max he doesn’t blame him for believing them, because he was so young, and couldn’t possibly know the truth.

Kenny finds a Bible in the apartment and places it in front of Max. With Max watching, Kenny swears that he did not murder Max’s mother.  He asks Max if he’s satisfied. Max doesn’t want to answer. His dad repeats the question, and Max says he’s satisfied.

Summary: Chapter 18: Never Trust a Cripple

Max sits bound, in his chair, awake, listening to the heavy breathing of his father. He hears a noise, and Loretta Lee appears with a pizza box, waking Kenny. Kenny has business with Iggy and tells Loretta to go find him. Meanwhile, Kenny unties Max and takes him to the kitchen. Max sits down to cornflakes and water, while Kenny tells him the plan: head for warmer weather in an RV marked with the name of traveling preacher Reverend Kenneth David Kane. 

When Max has finished his cornflakes, Kenny ties him up again. Iggy appears, saying the cops had come to his door asking about Max. Iggy is sure that the little kid (Freak) had sent the cops. Kenny forces Max to tell the story of the purse, which Max insists they didn’t steal, just found. Iggy tells Kenny that Freak is the son of Gwen, who was friends with Kenny’s wife.

Kenny is thinking about what to do next. He tells Iggy to get him a gun. Iggy says he can find one, and he leaves. Kenny turns to Max and tells him he can’t trust Freak. Max says he agrees.

Analysis: Chapters 16–18

Every interaction between Max and his father brings the contrast between the two characters into clearer focus. When Max follows his father’s instructions and doesn’t make any noise, it’s not because he wants to protect his father or go away with him. Instead, Max is worried about what could happen to Grim and Gram if they were to confront Kenny. Once again, Max is putting the well-being of others first, illustrating just how different he is from his father. Kenny sees his resemblance in Max and says Max is a chip off the old block, which is Max’s deepest fear. But the truth is that despite physical appearances, they could not be more different. Max cares about other people—his grandparents, the old lady whose apartment they’ve broken into, and even her cats—while Kenny Kane cares about nobody but himself.

During the ordeal, the reader can see many hints that Max is shutting down to cope with the trauma of what is happening. He doesn’t feel the cold even though he’s not wearing a jacket and his thoughts are distant and detached, “like a dead voice” in his head. There’s a good chance that these are coping behaviors that Max learned as the young child of a violent father.

Iggy and Loretta both appear to be afraid of Kenny, despite the fact that they are supposedly friends. This is a particularly important detail that provides further evidence of just what a dangerous person Max’s father is.

Storytelling and specifically the distinction between “telling stories” and “telling lies” has played a significant role throughout the novel. Freak has said things that aren’t technically true to entertain himself and Max. Grim has told “tales” for the same reason. Freak has also lied to protect Max from the truth of his health challenges and to provide hope to both of them. But the malicious untruths Kenny tells Max serve a different purpose—to manipulate and deceive. Kenny lies about things Grim and Gram have said. For example, there is no reason to believe that they have called Max cruel names. Kenny tells lies about Grim and Gram, about his relationship with Max’s mother, and about being misunderstood and unfairly blamed. All of these lies are meant to deceive and manipulate Max. Max also lies when he tells his father he is satisfied that he’s telling the truth and when he says he can’t trust Freak. However, Max is only telling his father what he wants to hear. The intention behind these lies is simply to survive.

Kenny’s lies cause Max to think about things he doesn’t want to remember. This is a clue to the reader that in addition to knowing that his father is lying, Max also knows more than he’s saying about what happened. He doesn’t want to remember because the memories are too traumatic and painful.