Summary: Chapter 16

Renny is recovering from his heart attack in the hospital. Doc Hata offers words of comfort to Liv, who says that despite not having a degree, he truly is a doctor. Doc Hata thinks Anne would have attested to this, even though he hadn’t done anything for her.

The previous day, he went to the cemetery to watch Anne’s burial. He kept himself hidden so James wouldn’t see him, but when James suddenly hurried away from the ceremony, he caught sight of Doc Hata, causing him to slip and fracture his shin bone. Doc Hata followed the ambulance to the hospital and insisted on paying for James’s medical bills.

Doc Hata feels he can no longer bear to witness the suffering of others. He imagines that he’s “at the vortex of bad happenings,” and that he should raise a black flag over his house to warn everyone to stay away—especially Sunny and Tommy.

Sunny surprises Doc Hata at the hospital with lunch. She remembers that the orphanage where she stayed in Japan was like a hospital, which is why she never like being in Doc Hata’s medical supply store. Doc Hata says she probably wishes she never came to live with him, and she says she doesn’t feel that way anymore. She explains that it had seemed to her like he was the one who wished she hadn’t come.

Sunny says that when she went to check in on Renny, he asked her what it was like growing up with Doc Hata as a father. Thinking these questions must have felt awkward, Doc Hata tells Sunny she doesn’t have to tell him what she said. Sunny replies that that she could have told Renny about little problems, but none of them would have been damning. But Doc Hata responds that there was one thing he wishes never happened. Sunny knows what he means but doesn’t want to talk about it.

On his way home, Doc Hata recalls when Sunny returned home after a year away. She called to tell him she was pregnant and needed his help. He set up an appointment with a physician he trusted, Dr. Anastasia, to discuss terminating the pregnancy. But when she arrived, Doc Hata saw that Sunny’s pregnancy was nearly full term.

At first, Dr. Anastasia refused to operate, as it would be illegal to perform an abortion at such a late stage. But Doc Hata insisted and offered to stand in for the doctor’s nurse, who would have refused to participate. He explained his training as a field medic, and Dr. Anastasia reluctantly agreed. They sedated Sunny heavily so she wouldn’t know Doc Hata was there, and they went through with the procedure. Doc Hata watched as Sunny ran away again the next morning. He didn’t try to stop her.

Doc Hata reflects that what he saw that night at the clinic remains preserved in his memory to this day.

Summary: Chapter 17

Doc Hata thinks about how one time Mary Burns felt deeply upset by a phone conversation she had with one of her daughters. The daughter had asked Mary how much she money she should plan on inheriting. Though Doc Hata thought it a reasonable question, Mary felt stunned by her daughter’s selfishness.

The next morning, Mary came over for her usual Sunday morning swim. Afterward, they sat together silently. She asked Doc Hata if he planned to leave everything to Sunny, and he said yes, though inwardly he didn’t feel sure. Doc Hata pondered his desire for the parent–child relationship to remain pure, though he knew it was always tainted with complication. He tried to connect with Mary, but she put her towel on and left. That was the last time he spent time with her in person.

Arriving home from a walk, Doc Hata finds Liv waiting for him. He has decided to sell his house, and Liv has come to discuss the showings planned for the next day. He intends to use the money from the sale to pay for Patrick Hickey’s hospital expenses. He will also buy James Hickey’s mortgage and put Sunny’s name on the title to the building. He’s having the apartment remodeled in the hopes that Sunny will agree to live there and run her own store in the vacant space below. Doc Hata isn’t sure about his own plans, but he thinks he might go west and live modestly for the rest of his days.

Analysis: Chapters 16–17

In Chapter 16, the reader at last learns the details about the traumatic experience that decisively ruptured the relationship between Doc Hata and Sunny. Although Doc Hata’s memories have offered glimpses of the minor tensions that strained their relationship, the event that has kept Sunny away for the past thirteen years is undoubtedly the illegal abortion that Doc Hata arranged for her in the late stages of her first pregnancy. Sunny’s abortion had a traumatic effect on Doc Hata’s life that rivals K’s murder. Just as he remains haunted by memories of K decades after the war, Doc Hata confesses that his recollections of assisting Dr. Anastasia with Sunny’s procedure remain “unaltered” in his mind. And yet, despite the fact that Doc Hata recounts the story of Sunny’s abortion, he does not actually try to heal the wound that has kept him and Sunny apart by confronting it, nor does he reveal to Sunny his own involvement in the abortion procedure. As such, this traumatic rupture in their relationship remains open and only partially acknowledged.

The dissolution of Doc Hata’s relationship with Mary stemmed in large part from their divergent ideas about the nature of the parent–child relationship. The reader has caught glimpses of their different parenting philosophies earlier in the novel. In Chapter 3, for instance, Doc Hata recounts their most significant quarrel, which related to his parenting style. Mary accused him of never opposing Sunny’s increasingly rebellious behavior. This scene is echoed in Chapter 16 when Doc Hata describes the last time he spent time with Mary. At the time, Mary felt upset that her daughter had asked how much money Mary planned to leave her when she died. As someone who derived her sense of self from her relationships to others, particularly to her family, Mary felt aghast that her daughter could reduce their relationship to a matter of dollars and cents. By contrast, Doc Hata didn’t seem perturbed by the question, and, in fact, thought it quite practical. In this moment, Mary could see that Doc Hata’s understanding of the parent–child relationship resembled that of her daughter. Without announcing her disappointment in Doc Hata’s businesslike perspective on inheritance, she simply left and let their relationship dissipate, understanding that their perspectives on family and relationships made them unsuitable partners.

As his darkest memories continue to surge up from the past and as several people in his present life come to harm, Doc Hata entertains the idea that he is the source of everyone else’s tragedy. He thinks of himself as standing at the center of a metaphysical “vortex of bad happenings.” Just as a person standing in the eye of a storm can remain unharmed despite the destruction taking place around them, Doc Hata has led a mostly comfortable life as those close to him have suffered and even died. To add further pain and irony, not only has Doc Hata remained unharmed as others have suffered but he has profited mightily, accumulating a significant amount of social and financial capital over the course of his long life. These thoughts lead Doc Hata to the conclusion that he can only ensure the safety and well-being of others if he keeps away from them. Despite his increasing hunger for connection, he imagines the need to raise a black flag and warn others of the danger he poses. Echoing his recurring fantasies of disappearing or dissolving, Doc Hata now imagines retreating from the world he knows.

The novel ends with Doc Hata finally taking direct action to secure the well-being of the loved ones closest to him. He does this most obviously when he plans to sell his house and use the profits to benefit people he cares about or otherwise feels responsible for. But he also takes direct action in a less obvious way when he thinks about leaving Bedley Run and moving out west. Given Doc Hata’s track record of running away from difficulty, his plan to leave town may initially seem escapist. Yet in light of his conclusion that he has been the source of others’ pain, he sees his disappearance from Bedley Run not as a form of escape so much as a actively protective measure. Furthermore, by choosing to leave Bedley Run of his own accord instead of waiting for his fellow citizens to forget him, Doc Hata can take responsibility for his own disappearance. Throughout the novel, he has worried about losing status in the eyes of his community. However, the arrangements he’s making for Sunny, Tommy, James, and Patrick may reestablish his reputation in the eyes of a new generation while also giving that new generation every chance at succeeding.