Yet while Naomi understands and forgives her mother’s desire to keep silent about the atrocities she saw and suffered, in the end she seems to feel that the silence was not worth the price. It is better to know all. Chapter 38, a lyrical outpouring of emotion addressed primarily to Naomi’s mother is characterized by Naomi’s longing to share her mother’s pain. In the end, Naomi insists she feels a mystical connection to her deceased mother, as if she is still present somehow. While this is a comforting sensation, its pathos is a strong argument for truth telling. Naomi must talk herself into feeling her mother’s presence, because she has almost nothing else to go on. Hard facts, even the most disturbing hard facts, are precious to her. She clings to photos of her mother as if they are talismans, studying the buckles on her shoes as if they have some deep meaning. We suspect that if she knew more about her mother, if she had been in communication with her while she was still alive, Naomi wouldn’t so desperately need to insist that she can still communicate with her after her death.
The novel ends on a hopeful note. Naomi doesn’t explicitly or even implicitly rescind her earlier assertion that reliving the past will not help prevent future atrocities. But nearly all of the clippings and letters and other historical material included in the narrative to this point have demonstrated the breathtaking racism of Canadians. This final excerpt, in contrast, proves that there were at least some Canadians who were outraged over their country’s treatment of its citizens. The inclusion of this positive excerpt represents a shift, however small, from cynicism about the human capacity for evil toward acknowledgment that some people care about, and fight against, injustice.