Summary: Chapters 13-16

Chapter 13

Amanda wakes up to Rose in their bed, complaining that the TV isn’t working, so Amanda grudgingly gets up so she won’t wake up Clay. Amanda receives four news alerts on her phone, and the last one is garbled text, but the phone is blank by the time she shows it to Clay. The omniscient narrator tells us the stillness in the air is a response by animals to the earlier wind. Amanda starts to explain to Rose about G. H. and Ruth arriving, but Rose doesn’t care. Amanda reflects that her children don’t care enough to absorb what she’s saying most of the time, and she believes this is because children can’t understand complex thoughts. When Clay gets ups, Rose asks him to fix the TV, and Clay wonders if they’ve been too permissive with “narcotic” screen time. Then, he reflects on their special father-daughter bond, telling Rose to go outside and that he’ll join her in a few minutes. Rose reflects that her friend Hazel’s life must be better in every way. While waiting for her dad, she sees a deer and then realizes there are dozens more. The omniscient narrator tells us that there are at least a thousand deer gathering in the woods. 

Chapter 14

Ruth wakes, desperate to talk to her daughter, and notes that her cell phone isn’t working but the power is on. She creeps up to the kitchen to try the landline, but it doesn’t work either so she tries to imagine the sound of her daughter’s voice. She is startled to see the other couple in the living room, Clay barely dressed. Amanda says she doesn’t know what to tell the kids about the emergency and looks to Ruth for advice. They all look at Rose in the yard, and Amanda and Ruth agree to keep the emergency between the adults. Ruth and Amanda chat about work, and Ruth reveals she was in admissions at Dalton, leading Amanda to wonder if she can use this connection to benefit Rose and Archie. Amanda says Clay is a professor at City College. Understanding that, to learn more about Clay and Amanda, she needs to share information about herself, Ruth says she went to Barnard. Amanda repiles that she went to Penn.  

G. H. arrives and Amanda stands formally to greet him. He asks for news, wishing he could see what the market was doing. He suggests the blackout was caused by the wind, but Ruth points out that landlines don’t go down because of wind. When G. H. wonders aloud if the blackout could be some kind of mass hysteria, Ruth is offended because she interprets the phrase as being sexist. G. H. suggests they visit Danny, their contractor, but Ruth rejects that idea and asks Amanda for access to the master bedroom, where she keeps her clean clothes. She remembers Amanda and Clay’s surprised faces when they opened the door. Ruth confesses she’s scared and says their daughter is probably trying to call, then asks G. H.  if he remembers their trip to Italy when Maya was nine. G. H. asks what made her think of that and she says she doesn’t know what else to think about.  

Chapter 15

Rose thinks of the dozens of deer she saw in the woods and knows nobody will believe her because she’s only 13. The morning is strange, too hot and quiet. In the kitchen, she is polite when her dad introduces her. and she reminds G. H. of his own daughter. Clay and G. H. go outside to talk and G. H. reminds himself not to act like a TV neighbor. Clay admits to his smoking vice in a man-to-man way and G. H. understands, reflecting on how times have changed what is acceptable. They discuss the news alert and G. H. says he manages money for a living, which depends on access to information. G. H. says he suspects terrorism is behind the blackout, and asks whether Clay thinks the president will do the right thing. G. H. suggests visiting Danny, but Clay, wanting to be the one who solves things, says he’s going to buy a newspaper and that he’ll come back with answers.  

Chapter 16

Clay drives slowly, thinking that the longer Ruth and G. H. stay, the more right he has to the thousand dollars. He thinks about smoking and how it resembles deep breathing, then he stops and goes outside to smoke, craving a cold Coke. Out of habit, he looks at his phone but it’s still not working, and neither is the GPS.  As he drives, he loses himself in his thoughts, marveling at how a person can drive while thinking about other things. The scenery around him all looks the same, and Clay doesn’t know whether to backtrack or forge ahead. He sees no other cars, and eventually pulls over and turns the car around, looking for the shack selling eggs that marks their turnoff. He drove out to prove to the others that he was manly and could take charge, but instead he feels foolish and lost.


In Chapters 13 through 16, Clay and G. H. begin to bond over a shared understanding of their sexism and their belief in their own protective and leadership roles as men. In the morning light, they are territorial, each thinking he has a claim to the house. When Clay asks G. H. to step outside, he is pleased with how masculine and decisive he sounds, even though he knows that his main motivation is his urge to smoke a cigarette. Clay is aware of “masculinity” as a certain set of societal expectations that he personally doesn’t always fulfill. G. H. understands that they are talking “man to man” in a way that is no longer permissible in modern society. He and Clay are colluding in their shared knowledge that they are the natural leaders in this group. The narrator expands this sexism to reflect society at large with the idea that, although it’s no longer considered socially acceptable to use gendered language, that hasn’t changed the patriarchal power structure. 

G. H. wants to convey to Clay his expertise as someone who deals in “information,” but Clay vies with him to be the one who finds out what is going on. He feels proud to be taking action, although he will regret his decision later when he loses his way. G. H., by contrast, uses Ruth as an excuse not to leave the house. He implies that he needs to stay to protect Ruth, who is weaker than he is. In reality, G. H. is afraid to go out, knowing that he’s a dealmaker by trade, not a hero. While Clay is initially aware of G. H.’s otherness as a Black man, he soon overcomes his reservations enough to form a natural alliance with him because they are the only two adult males in the house. Clay’s preconceptions about masculinity overrule his preconceptions about race, leading the two men to quickly decide how they will share the role of the head of the household.  

In their desire to protect the children from harm, Clay and Amanda tend to underestimate Rose and Archie’s intelligence and perceptiveness. Rose, in particular, is more tuned into the world than her parents realize, which she demonstrates through her powers of observation. When Rose goes outside, she’s the only one to notice that there are an unusual number of deer in the woods beyond the house. She senses something has changed, but the adults, who look to authoritative sources for information, prefer to think of her as oblivious. Even Ruth, who usually treats children like smaller adults, is pulled into the conspiracy to protect the children from the news of an undefined emergency. Rose has enough awareness to realize that the adults won’t believe her if she tells them about the deer, because of her age. Nevertheless, she understands that something about this day is different. Unlike the adults, who spend a lot of time speculating and little time investigating, she takes the time to try to understand what is going on in the outside world by listening and observing.  

Amanda’s suspicion of the Washingtons as Black people is mitigated by her respect for their class status, as indicated by their association with various institutions of American snobbery, such as Ivy League colleges and the expensive New York grade school, Dalton. Ironically, Amanda can think this way while part of her still suspects Ruth and G. H. of some kind of elaborate deceit. Her distrust is based purely on racism by now. Had this couple been white, she would have found Ruth’s talk about Barnard and Dalton completely convincing. When Amanda tells Ruth that Clay is a professor, the fact that Ruth guesses Columbia puts Amanda at a disadvantage, as Columbia is more prestigious than where Clay actually works. Perhaps because of Amanda’s recognition of being outranked, she finds herself standing up when G. H. enters the room. Despite Amanda’s newfound courteousness around the Washingtons, Ruth remembers the look on the white couple’s face as they opened the door. Amanda’s racism vies with her classism in these chapters, as she is torn between the urge to ingratiate herself with a more socially powerful couple, and her instinctive distrust of them based on their race.  

These chapters explore the question of addiction in our daily lives, not just through Clay’s smoking but also through the entire group’s addiction to technology. Nagged by Rose to fix the TV, Clay wonders if they’ve been too permissive about screen time, which he recognizes as similar to a drug. When Clay and Amanda become aware that something may be wrong with the cell phone system as a whole, they sense that the unknown emergency could be major in scale. Even Ruth, representative of a generation that grew up without smartphones, is dependent on technology. One of the first things she does when she wakes up is to check her phone. Her phone dependence is rooted in her constant preoccupation with her grown daughter and grandchildren, and her phone represents her link to Maya. G. H.’s dependence on his phone has to do with his need for constantly updated information about the financial world. Clay depends on his phone in all kinds of ways. He is literally lost without the GPS to guide him, unable to navigate on his own. Like almost everybody else, he has farmed out some of his life skills to his phone, leading to constant cravings.