Summary: Chapters 33-36

Chapter 33

Amanda and Clay wake up feeling hungover and sick to their stomachs. Amanda vomits a pinkish fluid and feels ashamed, while Clay has diarrhea. Clay notices that Rose is no longer in bed and Amanda opens the door to the backyard to get some fresh air. When she asks Archie how he feels, she turns away and pulls the covers over his head. She gets him to sit up and asks if his throat hurts, but he can’t decide what to say because he feels normal morning grogginess. As he touches his teeth with his tongue, one falls out, then several more do, leaving his gums bleeding. Despite his surprise, he feels okay, but Amanda is alarmed. As Clay tries to figure out what to do, Amanda can only ask if he filled the bathtub. 

Chapter 34

Clay consults the Washingtons, hoping for wisdom, but they have never seen anything like this. Archie keeps saying he feels all right, but G. H. advises taking him to the emergency room. Ruth doesn’t want to care about these people who are note more than strangers, but she can’t stop herself. G. H. offers to draw a map showing the way to the hospital, and Clay confesses that he got lost when he went out. When G. H. suggests they all go, but Ruth refuses because she is not willing to risk her life for them. Amanda suggests they leave Rose with Ruth while they take Archie to the hospital, and then suddenly realizes that she doesn’t know where Rose is. 

Chapter 35

They search for Rose everywhere and Amanda wonders if Rose is hiding somewhere like she did when she was little. She looks in the bathroom, and blames Clay for the nearly empty tub. Ruth feels a responsibility to help look for Rose because she and Amanda are colleagues, not as mothers but as humans. When they ask Archie if he knows where Rose went, he says no, even though he has an instinct, and sets out to find her. As he searches for Rose, he notices that his gum sockets have a soft pleasantness to them and that this is a sign that he won’t be able to have the life he imagined. Archie looks for Rose in the little shed because knows she went back into the woods but can’t say so out loud, but he doesn’t make it there because his knee gives out and he vomits pink fluid.

Chapter 36

As the adults keep searching for Rose, Amanda heads to the egg stand, while Clay finds Archie lying in the grass, still vomiting. Watching them, Ruth mentally itemizes all the medications and supplies in the house. G. H. says that Rose probably borrowed a bike and went to play, and Clay reflects that the books Rose reads give her a sense that she can solve any problem by taking action. They give Archie water, and G. H. states that he and Clay will take Archie to the hospital. Ruth protests, saying he can’t leave her, but G. H. takes charge and tells Ruth to help Amanda find Rose. Like men of his generation, G. H. knows he must be decisive and act with conviction, so he tells Ruth that if they aren’t human in this moment, then they are nothing.


In these chapters, the calamity the characters have been anticipating for days is finally upon them. All along, the adults have been united in one thing: the parental instinct to protect the children from whatever is going on in the greater world. But these chapters show that being kept in ignorance cannot protect you from reality. The first emergency of the day comes early, with the unsettling loss of Archie’s teeth. Amanda and Clay are appalled by this bizarre symptom, which they believe to be an after-effect of the deafening noise. They are too afraid to acknowledge openly that they, too, are showing signs of illness. Since Clay no longer has access to information through his smartphone, he turns to G. H. and Ruth for insight into Archie’s health crisis, but their personal experience yields nothing useful. The second crisis of the day emerges when the adults try to decide who should accompany Archie to the emergency room. It dawns on Amanda that she hasn’t seen her daughter all morning. Despite everything the adults have done to shelter the children, Archie and Rose both seem to be in peril. 

In every group, a leader emerges, and G. H. takes on that role in these chapters, acting on traditional assumptions about seniority, class, and gender. He is also an owner of the house, which gives him a certain authority there. Ruth puts aside her resistance to traditional gender roles when she allows G. H. to overrule her wishes and leave the house to go to the hospital with Clay and Archie. Clay accepts G. H.’s leadership without question, putting aside any unconscious bias he may still harbor against Black men. G. H. sees himself as a natural leader. He thinks of how he comes from a decisive, take-command generation and seizes the moment, something he believes no one else will do. The irony is that he fails to acknowledge that his generation is most likely responsible for the current disaster.  

Amanda and Clay’s emotional vulnerability as parents masks their own physical vulnerability in these chapters. They both wake with a sense of illness that they’re quick to dismiss as nothing more than a hangover. Amanda isn’t surprised that she needs to vomit, but she feels shame afterward because she thinks her over-indulgence of the night before is the cause of her illness. In reality, her illness is more than a simple hangover, and the shame she feels is a shame all people ought to feel this morning: the disaster itself is like a worldwide hangover on a huge scale, the consequences of humans consuming too much. As Clay stands in the shower after a bout of diarrhea, he has a faint inkling that his illness may be a symptom of something worse than a hangover, but he doesn’t allow himself to think about it, subconsciously guarding himself from the knowledge just as he has tried to protect his children by withholding information. The frailty of the human condition, both physically and emotionally, comes to the fore in these chapters.  

There’s a sense that the adults, lacking the guidance usually available to them via digital devices, have become rudderless in these chapters. Forgotten skills, such as map-making, are suddenly called for. When G. H. agrees to draw a map of the route to the hospital, he implies that this is hardly necessary because the route is simple. However, Clay knows from personal experience that the route is anything but simple to people who have lost the knack of navigating by landmarks. He confesses with shame that he got lost when he tried to drive to town, showing how incompetent he feels when he doesn’t have the resources of the Internet at his fingertips. The sudden lack of connection with the wider world has thrown the two couples into unexpectedly close contact, making them dependent on one another in ways that would have been unthinkable only days ago. The uncertainty of the situation forces them to turn to one another for answers. In this new environment, the life experience of the older couple becomes a valuable resource in a world with no access to digital answers.