Summary: Chapters 25-28

Chapter 25

Archie showers and tries to masturbate, using photos in the hidden album of his phone, but he can’t, which has never happened before. Rose tries to read a book in her parent’s bed but keeps thinking of the sound, which she is sure was not thunder. Feeling brave and strong, she goes to the window and looks out, when she notices a crack in the glass. As it begins to rain, Rose wishes their vacation could have lasted a little longer. She knows her parents don’t take her seriously, but she believes she knows what the problem is and will try to solve it. Then, she goes off to bake a cake, like Amanda promised they would on a rainy day. Meanwhile, Archie gets into bed feeling warm and sleepy, and thinks it’s odd that the Washingtons are at the house, but they seem nice, so he doesn’t have any other reaction to their presence. Ruth gets the laundry basket out of the closet and is pleased to see G. H.’s emergency stores of wine and containers of food. She wonders if it’s too intimate to offer to throw in Amanda’s laundry with hers. 

Chapter 26

The adults listen to Rose baking in the kitchen, and  the narrator reports that in a few days, residents of Manhattan apartments will start dying of dehydration. G. H. confirms that if the power goes out, they, too, will lose water, so Amanda tells Clay to fill the bathtubs and he goes off to do so. Amanda comments on the lack of thunder and G. H. says he didn’t think the noise was really thunder. She asks him lots of questions, and he keeps replying that he doesn’t know. While Amanda believes she’d feel better if she knew what was happening, the narrator notes that the truth would not be comforting at all. G. H. suggests going back to town the next day, and Clay apologizes for not getting there, privately wondering if the woman he left on the road is out in the rain. 

They discuss their options. Clay wants to sit tight and Amanda wants to leave, so they decide to make their decision tomorrow after going to town. While Amanda goes off to pack, G. H. offers to drive Clay to town, not believing Clay knows the way. The smell of cake fills the house and G. H. tells Rose to ask Ruth for the baking supplies so she can decorate it. Clay offers to cook dinner as a way of proving his value, while Amanda goes to wake Archie, but he doesn’t stir and his body feels hot. When Amanda asks him if he’s feeling okay, Archie sits up and says he’s not sure and vomits. 

Chapter 27

Amanda washes Archie and calls for Clay, who helps Archie to the couch where they watch the rain together. G. H. helps Rose decorate the cake, and Rose, who knows something scary is happening,, is happy for the distraction. Ruth takes Archie’s temperature, which is 102. As Amanda rinses the soiled sheets in the shower, she wrings them out as a way to channel her anger. Ruth arrives, offering to do laundry and Amanda apologizes, doing something like a curtsy because she is conscious of being in Ruth’s room. Ruth tells her not to be sorry and reports Archie’s temperature, saying he seems fine and that kids often run high fevers. 

Ruth invites Amanda to put her clothes into the laundry, and Amanda is thankful even though the offer feels too intimate. She doesn’t know that the manager of her Laundromat is trapped in an elevator and will die there. Ruth tells Amanda they can stay if they want, but Amanda is still a bit suspicious and does not want to be stuck with them forever, so she shakes her head, saying Archie needs a doctor and that they will take him tomorrow. Ruth says they might all need a doctor. Amanda asks Ruth to say something to make her feel better, and Ruth says she can’t because she needs comfort herself. Ruth points out that at least Amanda has her children with her, and Amanda suggests they eat something because she doesn’t know what else to do. 

Chapter 28

With the children in bed, the evening feels almost festive as the adults eat, drink, and chat. They talk about travel and Amanda mentions a trip to Disney, with Clay noting that Archie threw up then too. When Ruth mentions Paris, Clay suggests they go there for winter break, but Amanda worries that the borders will be closed. Amanda brings out vodka and G. H. slices lemons. After Clay askes G. H. to make a map of the area, G. H. says he’ll drive into town the next day and Clay can follow. He also says he’ll give them cash to reimburse them for the stay, and Clay accepts, believing they might need the money for medical bills or food. Ruth begins to clean up, saying Amanda and Clay should enjoy their last night of vacation, and Amanda, who is drunk, goes into the bedroom to pack. As Clay follows her, he wonders if they’re addicted to their phones, and Amanda worries that the noise has made them sick. Keeping the thought to herself, she blames Ruth and G. H. for everything that’s gone wrong. Clay suggests they have sex.


In these chapters, we begin to see the immediate effects of this still-undefined emergency along with the beginnings of what promises to be a slow unraveling. Archie is the first to suffer any physical consequences from the disaster, which is ironic given that he is arguably the strongest in the group, being an almost fully grown teenage boy. While it seems clear that Archie is already doomed, he is still driven by his normal teenage urges. When his body doesn’t respond as usual to his attempt to masturbate, he isn’t unduly alarmed, but he should be. The sense of foreboding builds when Archie tries to gauge whether or not he’s too warm. By the time he drifts off to sleep, alarm bells are ringing. It comes as no surprise that he’s unresponsive when Amanda tries to wake him from his nap. As Archie sits up and vomits, the horror that the adults have all tried so hard to shut out is finally let loose in the house.  

The atmosphere of isolation and vulnerability intensify as the characters grapple with an emergency they don’t understand. When Rose gets up to look out at the rain, she is the first to notice a hairline crack in the pane of the glass door. This crack is a symbol of the damage spreading through the world in the wake of the undefined disaster. It’s a tangible sign that they aren’t safe in this solid brick house. While the noise passed quickly, the damage it left in its wake is only just becoming apparent. The onset of rain intensifies the sense of isolation, of being marooned from the world at large. Knowingly or not, Rose expresses regret for an opportunity that has already disappeared when she wishes for “a little more vacation.” In contrast with her brother, Rose feels strong and energized, implying that she, supposedly the weakest and least intelligent of the group, may end up being a survivor. Rose is the only one to think she understands the problem, and the only one to think she has a solution. This illustrates a theme in the novel that only youth can rescue the world from disaster.

In these chapters, the two families hunker down and begin solidifying their relationship. Responding to Archie’s sudden illness, G. H. distracts Rose by helping her decorate her cake. Ruth surprises herself by offering to put Amanda’s laundry in with her own, thinking it is "too intimate." In the end that doesn’t stop her from accepting even Archie’s vomit-soaked sheets into her basket. In an example of just how similar Ruth and Amanda are, Amanda thinks of those exact words, “too intimate,” when Ruth offers to do the laundry. They have now entered uncharted territory in this relationship. They are not friends, neighbors, or family, but, for the moment, they are everything to one another. Isolated in the country, Ruth and G. H. support and advise the younger couple, motivated by their own experience and instincts as parents. Even when Ruth tells Amanda that she can’t give her any words of comfort, Ruth has taken action to provide the support and reassurance Amanda craves. By now, the two couples have much in common despite their apparent differences, from their fear of the unknown to their shared sense of concern for the well-being of the children.

Despite Archie’s sudden illness, or perhaps because of it, dinner that night has an almost festive atmosphere. There’s an urgency to the way the adults consume wine, food, and desserts, suggesting that they want to seize the moment because they don’t know what dangers the next day will hold. They eat and drink recklessly while the bathtub slowly drains, symbolizing the depletion of resources in a climate of encroaching uncertainty. Amanda’s stress has translated into an urge to binge on calories and alcohol, and she plans to come back to the kitchen later that night to eat more and stave off her fear of scarcity. Conversations about future plans, such as a winter visit to Paris, bring a false sense of normalcy to the occasion, but Amanda doesn’t want to play along. She is quick to point out that borders could be closed by then. When Amanda mentions Disney, Clay clings to the memory that Archie threw up there too, trying to convince himself that Archie’s current illness could also be trivial. 

By the time Amanda retires to their room to pack, her fear and urgency have resurfaced as if the festivity of the evening never happened. At this point, her instincts are telling her to flee. Just as people throughout history have always blamed the messenger for bad news, she blames Ruth and G. H. for “bringing the world into this house.” But before the evening is over, Clay thinks of a way to enjoy the present moment despite the impending doom. He suggests sex, returning to the theme that, when faced with calamity, nature’s solution is to make new life. While it seems these characters are engaging in frivolous activities while a catastrophe is occurring around them, they are in reality trying to offer one another and themselves a sense of normalcy, of comfort, a sense that life must go on even in the face of uncertainty. The juxtaposition of the smell of vomit and the smell of cake at the end of Chapter 27 encapsulates this idea that consumption and catastrophe can exist side by side.