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The year is 2010, and Kate narrates in the first person. She discusses grief
and how, after Anna’s death, Brian believed he could see Anna in the night sky and
Sara thought Anna would come back to her. Kate says she began to hate herself. She
blamed herself for Anna’s death.
Kate stayed sick for a long time after the transplant, but suddenly got
better. Dr. Chance had medical explanations, but Kate believed it was because
someone had to go and Anna took her place. Kate talks about the immediate stages of
grief in her family, how much her mother cried and how much her father kept away.
But she said one day she laughed, and the very act of living started to ease the
Kate wonders if Anna keeps tabs on them, if she knows they stayed close to
Julia and Campbell and even went to their wedding, and whether Anna saw Jesse’s
graduation from the police academy or witnessed Brian’s drinking problem and how he
gradually got better. She also wonders if Anna knows that she teaches dance to
little girls now.
One year after Anna’s death, Sara came home with a roll of developed film from
Kate’s high school graduation. The last picture on the roll showed Anna. Sara and
Kate stared at the picture until they memorized every detail. Kate fearsa day will
come when it will be harder to remember Anna. But she knows she can lift her shirt
and feel the scar from where she received Anna’s kidney. She says she takes Anna
with her, wherever she goes.
Kate’s voice has appeared only twice in the book, during the prologue and now
during the epilogue. Although the lives of the characters we see revolve largely
around her, and her health problems more specifically, Kate remains in the
background. Kate’s absence from much of the novel has a few different results. For
one, it makes the story about the effects of cancer on the lives of the people
around it, rather than about cancer itself. Perhaps more importantly, keeping Kate
silent allows Anna to act as the focus of the story. Were Kate more present, and the
physical devastation wrought on her by the cancer and the chemotherapy more
prominent, Anna’s troubles might seem insignificant. Kate’s more dramatic problems
would swallow Anna’s problems us, just as they did within the Fitzgerald
The epilogue allows us to see the aftermath of Anna’s death. For the most
part, emotional devastation characterizes that aftermath. Sara cried almost
incessantly and looked for signs that Anna would come back, indicating that she felt
unable to let Anna go. Brian worked all the time, and then developed a drinking
problem that he only recovered from gradually. He would also see signs of Anna in
the stars. The family eventually stopped visiting Campbell and Julia, who married,
because Campbell and Julia reminded them too much of Anna. Kate, as she tells the
reader, hated herself. She felt responsible for Anna’s death because she prompted
the lawsuit, and without the lawsuit Anna would not have been in the car with
Campbell. But we also see the positive consequence of Anna’s death. Years after
Anna’s death, Kate remains alive because of Anna’s kidney.