Summary: Chapters 37-40

Chapter 37

As G. H. drives slowly, concerned for Archie and feeling fatherly, Clay suddenly confesses that he saw a woman on the road when he went out. When G. H. instructs him to draw a map so Clay won’t get lost again, Clay gets out the pad and pencil but keeps talking about the woman on the road. G. H. asks why he didn’t tell them about her, and Clay says he didn’t realize at the time that something big was happening. Now, he wonders if it’s karma that he needs, like she did when he abandoned her. As G. H. points out landmarks, he muses that he always avoided the locals because of how they might react to Black strangers in an expensive car, and he wonders if they will need a gun in the days to come. Clay confesses that without his phone he’s useless and , as he chokes back tears, G. H. announces they’re going to stop at the house of his contractor Danny, who he sees as a good friend who will be able to help them, or at least offer some information. Half listening, Clay agrees, but his thoughts are stuck on the woman he left on the road. When, G. H. asks him if he is writing down the directions, Clay says that he is, leaving out the fact that his map is a useless mess of lines.

Chapter 38

Ruth, not liking her role as the supporting player, coaxes Amanda out of the shed, thinking about how her own daughter is also lost to her. Ruth checks the phone timer, and updates Amanda on the G. H., Clay, and Archie’s trip to the hospital. Secretly afraid that Rose is already dead in the house, Amanda agrees to search the house again with Ruth. The plan is for G. H. to bring Amanda to the hospital once they find Rose, and Amanda worries about having enough time to find Rose and get packed up. . Ruth wants to tell her that they don’t need things because they have one another. 

Amanda starts yelling, saying she wants to get away from this house and from Ruth. Ruth, furious, points out that all of them are facing disaster, that Ruth is separated from her daughter, and that Amanda doesn’t care. Despite their argument, Ruth wants these people to stay, and Amanda instantly realizes that they will, and that Ruth is not a stranger, but their only hope. Knowing that these people are all she has left, Ruth longs to know whether Maya and the grandchildren are safe, but she will never find out. Pausing her search for Rose, Amanda replugs the bathtub and refills it with water, then she apologizes to Ruth for yelling. She wants to hug Ruth, but can’t. Even so, Ruth understands because they all want the same thing: to be safe. 

Chapter 39

G. H. and Clay arrive at Danny’s huge, luxurious house, and it’s a surprise to learn that Danny never really liked G. H., who reminds him of work and Obama, who he also dislikes. Danny tells them he went into town and was able to stock up on groceries but the store was quiet. When he explains that this is likely the beginning of a war that Iran timed to coincide with the superhurricane, which leads Clay to the conclusion that Danny is a conspiracy theorist. To Danny, Clay is obviously from the city and unequipped to handle what is happening. 

Unable to understand Danny’s lack of interest, Clay explains that his son is sick and his daughter is missing and he doesn’t know what to do, but Danny offers no help and G. H. accepts that the human connection he hoped for doesn’t happen. When Danny mentions his gun, G. H. sees this as a threat and reconsiders a trip to the hospital. Danny tells them he saw a migration of deer and says the animals know something, but Clay doesn’t say anything about the flamingos because he doesn’t want to seem like he’s competing for the better animal story. Danny wishes them luck and advises them to go back, hunker down, fill the bathtub, and take stock of supplies, leaving G. H. feeling disappointed and foolish. Despite this, G. H. decides that his household will behave with decency and humanity. In the car, Archie agrees they should not go to the hospital and Clays says he wants to go home, meaning G. H.’s house, so they get back in less than an hour.

Chapter 40

Although no one takes Rose seriously, she has read enough books to know how this story ends. She knows they need to prepare and wakes with a mission on her mind, so she packs a bag and goes into the woods. Unseen behind her, a flamingo flies away. The birds were blown in on the wind and will adapt to their new environment. As she walks, Rose sings, knowing that the loud noise was a signal of the end of one kind of life and the beginning of another. Rose will be one of the few survivors, and she keeps walking toward the house she and Archie saw the day before, wondering who lives there. A few miles away, a huge herd of deer is migrating. At the house, she knocks on the door but the owners are away and will return. Rose breaks in and puts on a DVD of Friends. With the sound of the TV in the background, she ransacks the place, filling her bag with treasures like Advil and Band-Aids, and looking forward to telling the others about the spoils in the empty house, which she sees as a possible new home. She may be “only a girl” but she sees that the world still offers value, like it always has, and that the day will unfold like others before it, amid deep uncertainty.


Despite G. H.’s idea of himself as a decisive man of action, he becomes indecisive once they’re out on the road, showing signs of the vulnerability sometimes felt in old age. Instead of driving straight to the hospital, he decides to go instead to the home of his former contractor, Danny, demonstrating a lack of faith in his own leadership instincts. Because Danny was able to build such a strong and solid-seeming house, G. H. sees him as having almost magical abilities to solve problems. G. H.’s disappointment in Danny’s unhelpful response to their difficulties leaves him feeling foolish, but it also strengthens his resolve to do the right thing for the people in his household, strangers or not. Ironically, when he decides they should go back home and not to the hospital, he is acting on Danny’s advice. These chapters show that in the face of uncertainty, even confident people begin to question their own abilities and seek guidance from external sources. 

The introduction of a new character, Danny, at the tipping point in the novel allows for a new perspective and fresh insights into the mysterious calamity they all face. Danny’s racism—he doesn’t much like G. H. in the same way he doesn’t much like Obama—is something he puts aside for the sake of doing business. However, he has no interest in helping G. H. when he shows up on his doorstep with an emergency on his hands. Even talking to G. H. and Clay is more than Danny wants to do if he isn’t getting paid for it. The advice Danny offers reveals that, unlike Clay and G. H., he isn’t interested in finding strength in community. He implies that going to the hospital would have made sense in the world before the emergency, but it’s a bad idea now, although he doesn’t give a specific reason. He makes sure G. H. and Clay know they aren’t welcome when he steps outside and closes the door behind him. This is a reverse echo of the night Clay opened the door for Ruth and G. H. and only closed it once they were inside. 

Danny knows things Clay and G. H. do not, but his information is not reassuring or helpful. For example, he shares that he visited the store and was able to stock up, but instead of being relieved to know the store is open, G. H. and Clay are spooked to hear how quiet and deserted it was. Danny also shares his theory about what has happened, which has some things in common with G. H. and Clay’s theories about bombs and missiles. Clay, a professor of English and therefore probably leftwing in his politics, identifies Danny as a conspiracy theorist the moment he hears him talk about “chatter.” One thing Danny has noticed, however, is how nature is responding to the event. Unlike G. H. and Clay, who live primarily in New York City, Danny notices the hundreds of deer passing through the nearby woods and he knows the animals are spooked. All along, Ruth has shared Danny’s solution to the problem: stay home and wait it out, which is described as “their animal response.” The fact that Clay and G. H. don’t continue their journey to the hospital shows that they, too, have an instinctive sense that self-preservation requires them to shelter in place.

Rose’s simple journey through the woods to the empty house marks the start of a new, post-apocalyptic chapter in the story of humanity. Her urge to be proactive and move into the next phase of life gives us a glimpse of what the future holds in the wake of the catastrophe. Because of her youth and gender, Rose has been discounted as a useful member of the household. She has been seen only as a child who needs to be protected, but it turns out that she is the strongest and most resourceful among them. Showing no signs of physical vulnerability and no mysterious symptoms of disease, she doesn’t succumb to the fear and confusion that hamper the adults in their decision-making. A bookworm, Rose has read her fair share of dystopian stories with strong young women saving the day, and her reading has prepared her for this moment. She sees herself as the main character in a story about the end of the world and knows exactly what to do in these circumstances. Although there’s an element of child’s play about her mission to the house in the woods, there’s also more than a hint of steely realism. 

Rose, like the deer and the flamingos, will find a way to survive in a hostile environment. Unlike her hapless father, Rose is instinctively good at finding her way and has no need for GPS. She recognizes fallen logs and changes in the contour of the land, retracing her footsteps without the slightest difficulty. Although she has grown up in the information age, she is still young enough to be connected to the natural world. Like the deer and other animals, Rose instinctively understands what she needs to do to survive. She will head back with a bag full of useful supplies and tidings of a possible new home for the family—a home complete with a pantry full of food, and DVDs to make the TV come back to life. Rose is philosophical, reflecting that every new day holds both promise and uncertainty, even in a world where all the social systems guiding and protecting them seem to have disappeared overnight. Although she is “only a girl,” she understands the most important truth: that the world still holds promise.