Sunny, however, doesn’t want to let him “conveniently” forget about the past. She reflects that Tommy might not exist if she’d had her first baby. She asks Doc Hata if he had already paid Doctor Anastasia before Sunny had even agreed to have the abortion, and Doc Hata says he had not. She talks about how Tommy has saved her, and she wonders aloud whether her first child would have been a girl.

In his mind, Doc Hata admits to himself that he did use subtle pressure to coerce Sunny into having the abortion. He reflects that no matter how much he might repress his uncomfortable memories, they always resurface.

Analysis: Chapter 13

Although it may strike the reader as strange, the comfort that Doc Hata derived from his concern about Sunny demonstrates his yearning to feel like an authentic parent. At various points thus far in the novel Doc Hata has spoken of how he’s never felt toward Sunny the way he thinks biological parents must feel toward their children. Throughout their relationship, he has secretly felt like a fraud. The dream he had around the time of Tommy’s birth reflects this secret worry. Doc Hata interprets his dream merely as a sign of his guilty feelings about Sunny’s upbringing. However, the fear of fraudulence he felt in his dream regarding his role as the young girl’s physician relates directly to the fear of fraudulence he has always felt regarding his role as Sunny’s father. Given his longstanding sense of being a fraudulent father, the genuine pain of concern that arose in him during Sunny’s second pregnancy convinced him that he did indeed have authentic feelings for his adopted daughter. It is this feeling of authenticity that gives Doc Hata a sense of comfort, even though the feeling itself is unpleasant.

Whereas Tommy indulges in the belief that sea mammals like dolphins and whales enjoy lives of perfect freedom, Doc Hata understands them as living under conditions of exile. Doc Hata understands his grandson’s interpretation of dolphins and whales as essentially joyful creatures who express their joy by leaping into the air and diving back into the ocean. However, as someone who has spent much of his life feeling out of his element, Doc Hata sees matters differently. Despite living in the ocean, sea mammals cannot breathe underwater. As such, their lives depend on having access to air. Doc Hata therefore understands the leaps of sea mammals not as expressions of joy but as a sign of their being forever dependent on “the resource of another realm.” Doc Hata has always felt similarly out of place, whether growing up as a Korean in Japan or trying to make his way as a minority in the United States. Though not formally in exile from his homeland, Doc Hata recognizes the feeling of being out of place as a definitive aspect of the condition of exile. It is for this reason that he feels sympathy for the sea mammals and disagrees with Tommy’s interpretation.

Doc Hata’s observations about the Conifers condominium complex underscores the elitism associated with his material success. When approaching the complex, Doc Hata notes that the grounds are better designed and maintained than other places in Ebbington but still scattered with the odd candy wrapper and stray tricycle. His thoughts shift to Bedley Run, where he can think of equivalent complexes outfitted with posh features like a clubhouse, tennis courts, and a sauna. For Doc Hata, the comparison with Bedley Run reveals not just a wealth disparity but also an aspiration for upward class mobility. The people who live in the Conifers cannot afford the lifestyle they really want, and Doc Hata assumes that they never will be able to afford it. Somewhat ironically, Doc Hata takes this perspective as someone who has succeeded in generating his own wealth and now comfortably leads an upper-middle-class lifestyle. He sees the citizens of Ebbington as wanting something better but being unwilling or unable to put in the work to really achieve anything like he did. Yet it isn’t clear that everyone at the Conifers would truly prefer to live in Bedley Run. Sunny, for instance, gives no suggestion of wanting that lifestyle for herself or for her son.

In the final pages of the chapter, a tension arises once again between Doc Hata’s desire to focus on the present and the unwelcome intrusion of uncomfortable memories from the past. Despite how well things have been going with Tommy, Doc Hata knows that his relationship with Sunny has not yet been fully repaired. He acknowledges to Sunny that he didn’t always do right by her and that he knows caring for Tommy will not excuse that. In his mind, though, Doc Hata remains committed to steering clear of his darker memories. He affirms to himself that he must focus on the present and the simple fact that he is with Sunny. Yet Sunny, who knows Doc Hata’s tendency to run away from discomfort, presses the issue and declares that she won’t let him “conveniently put away” how he’s acted in the past. In the midst of this tension between the present and the past, the reader learns for the first time that Sunny had an abortion and that Doc Hata helped her get it. In spite of his holding the present close, the past resurfaces once again and forces Doc Hata to reckon with it.