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Jesse steals a dump truck and picks up Dan. In flashbacks, Jesse recalls when
he was eleven and received a skateboard as a “guilt gift,” meaning a gift his
parents gave him whenever Kate became seriously ill. Brian promised him he would
take him to a parking lot where he could ride it, but Kate’s nose started to bleed.
When Jesse reminded Brian of his promise, Brian looked at Jesse like he didn’t see
him. That day, Jesse walked into the middle of traffic, hoping to get noticed. In
the present, Jesse takes Dan to a shed. Jesse lights it on fire and admires his
work, until Dan tells him that a homeless man named Rat lives in there. Jesse runs
in to the burning shed, saves Rat, and runs away just as the fire trucks
Anna waits at the hospital with Kate and Sara. Kate feels alert, but Dr.
Chance cautions that Kate’s lucid moments will occur less and less frequently
because she is in end-stage renal failure. Kate asks Dr. Chance how long it will be
before she dies, and he tells her maybe a week. Sara begins crying. When Anna tells
her to stop, Sara looks at Anna and tells her to stop. Later at the fire station,
Anna talks to Julia about her crush, Kyle, and Julia asks Anna what it will be like
when Kate dies. Anna can’t answer. Sara calls to apologize to Anna and say
goodnight. On the roof that night, Anna and Brian talks about the stars and
Brian goes to the hospital to see Sara. He talks to her about a trip they took
to Nevada years ago. They saw a fortune teller who told Sara her life wouldn’t be
good enough and told Brian to save himself. Sara doesn’t remember the trip and only
wants to talk about Anna. Brian tells her he plans to speak on Anna’s behalf. Sara
can’t understand this. She asks Brian to remember what it used to be like between
them. But Brian knows Sara is not the same woman she used to be. He also knows he is
not the same man he used to be, a man who believed Sara when she told him she would
always love him.
In 2001, Anna asks for money for goaltender pads. She has started playing ice
hockey. Four years have passed since Kate’s bone marrow transplant. One night, the
family goes to watch Anna play hockey. Later, Kate wakes up bleeding badly. She has
relapsed and her body is failing. Dr. Chance suggests a new and untested arsenic
therapy. That night, Sara finds Brian writing Kate’s eulogy. He wants to bring Kate
home to die in her own bed. He tells Sara the arsenic will just postpone what is
coming. Sara tells him it’s not time.
Kate slips into a coma. Sara receives a call from Jesse’s school. He blew up a
septic tank and has been expelled. Sara picks him up from the school and notices
needle marks on his arms. She suspects drug use, but Jesse reveals he has been
donating platelets for Kate every three days. Anna gets accepted to a prestigious
hockey camp, but Sara tells her she won’t be able to go because they might need her
for Kate. Anna says the camp is a year away, implying that Kate won’t be alive then
anyway. Kate develops an infection and becomes seriously ill. Jesse and Anna say
their good-byes to Kate. Brian tells Sara that Kate needs her permission to leave.
As Sara tells Kate that it’s okay for her to go, Kate grips her hand and begins to
claw her way back to life.
Anna ponders what heaven will be like. She wonders what age people are in
heaven, and how anyone recognizes each other. Sara calls a meeting at Campbell’s
office. She tells Anna that if Anna gives Kate a kidney she will never ask Anna for
anything again. Anna hugs her mother but tells her she can’t do it. Without a word,
Sara tries to smile and then leaves.
Julia admits to Izzy that she still has feelings for Campbell. Just then,
Campbell arrives and asks Julia out to dinner to discuss Sara’s plea bargain. He
takes her out on his boat, and though they’re having a good time, Julia suspects
Campbell wants to sway her decision. Julia gets angry and wonders if Campbell ever
says anything that isn’t a lie, but Campbell kisses her. She remarks that it feels
like the most natural thing in the world.
The novel presents love, whether romantic or familial, as a complex and often
contradictory emotion, and no relationships better exemplify this idea than Julia’s
and Campbell’s relationship and Sara’s and Anna’s relationship. Julia, for instance,
feels simultaneously attracted to and repelled by Campbell, largely because of how
he treated her in the past. She asks Izzy if Izzy thinks she likes Campbell
“because he’s an asshole or in spite of it.”
At one point, Julia and Campbell go from arguing to kissing in a matter of seconds.
In a similar manner, Sara can go from being extremely angry at Anna to being tender
and caring in a short period. Often the people in both relationships wound each
other deeply, as when Campbell stopped calling Julia, or when Anna filed her
lawsuit. The characters in these relationships can hurt each other so much
specifically because they love each other, not in spite of that
Sara’s and Brian’s relationship reaches a breaking point in these chapters. In
Brian’s memories of their trip to Nevada, we see a couple entirely different from
the one we have seen throughout the novel. They are young, energetic, and very much
in love. Currently, however, much of their relationship revolves around dealing with
Kate’s cancer. Brian’s choice to support Anna also puts them for the first time in
opposition with each other. Previously, Sara typically took the lead and convinced
Brian to follow, as when she convinced him to see the fortune teller with her during
their trip to Nevada. Now, however, Brian cannot be convinced. He believes Anna
should be allowed to make her own decision about serving as Kate’s donor, leaving
Sara feeling even more alone in her struggle to save Kate.
Brian’s wish to bring Kate home to die brings up another conflict in the
story. Kate comes near death multiple times in the novel. Each time we see her
suffering greatly. She bleeds profusely and slips into a coma, for instance. Because
she has a terminal disease, the question does not seem to be whether she will die,
but when. The struggle to prolong her life has put a great burden on every member of
the family. Jesse and Anna do not have normal childhoods and regularly cannot do the
things they want to do. Sara and Brian must care for Kate constantly and their
marriage has suffered as a result, The greatest burden, however, falls on Kate
herself, who must endure harsh treatments such as chemotherapy and suffers
tremendously as the cancer destroys her body. If Sara and Brian bring Kate home, she
will certainly die, ending her suffering. If she remains in the hospital, she may be
able to go on living temporarily, but her suffering will continue and it remains
only a matter of time before she will need to be hospitalized again. No perfect
option exists, and we see Brian and Sara struggling to determine what would be best
Despite his tough-guy persona, Jesse begins to emerge as one of the most
vulnerable characters in the story. Even when he destroys things, he never intends
to hurt anyone. When he sets the shack on fire and Dan tells him someone could be
inside, Jesse runs in without a thought to his own safety. Although he blows up the
school’s septic tank, we learn that he has been donating platelets for Kate. These
actions suggest an internal conflict in Jesse’s character between impulses to
destroy himself and to save others. Jesse’s self-destructive behavior stems
specifically from his desire to be noticed by his parents, specifically Brian.
According to Jesse’s description, when Jesse asked Brian to keep his promise and
take Jesse to the parking lot to skate, Brian looked at Jesse like Jesse was “made
out of smoke.” Jesse says for the first time he thought he might be, just meaning
that he felt invisible. Immediately after, he ended up walking into traffic, just
hoping to be noticed. Jesse’s desire to save others, meanwhile, appears to stem from
his wish to save Kate and also from a wish to be like Brian, his father. When Jesse
runs into the burning shack to save the homeless man that lives there, he
unconsciously mirrors Brian, the firefighter.