Chapter 19

After thirteen hours of walking, the Traveling Symphony sends scouts to make sure that the Prophet didn’t send men to follow them. Dieter argues with Kirsten about her “Survival is insufficient” tattoo, claiming that the Symphony stole the phrase from Star Trek

The group finds a stowaway in one of their caravans: the young girl from St. Deborah by the Water who followed Kirsten. The girl, Eleanor, tells them that she had to escape because she was meant to be the Prophet’s next bride. The conductor states that they normally stay out of town politics, but no one wants to send the girl back. Eleanor tells them that Charlie and Jeremy went to a place in Severn City called the Museum of Civilization. Eleanor doesn’t have much information about it but knows that it’s where the Prophet came from. When the Prophet and his followers initially moved into St. Deborah by the Water, they were peaceful. But when the mayor died of illness, the Prophet seized control and took the mayor’s wife as his own. Kirsten asks Eleanor why the Prophet named his dog Luli (the same name as the dog in the Dr. Eleven comic books), but Eleanor does not know.

Chapter 20

The Symphony stops at the edge of a region where everything has been burned. August, Kirsten, and two others go to an abandoned school to try to loot instruments. They find a mouthpiece for a flute and some rosin but are otherwise unsuccessful.

Chapter 21

This chapter contains more of Diallo’s interview with Kirsten. He asks her about the two black daggers tattooed on her arm, and she asks him if he knows what they mean. Diallo says that he does, but he wants her to tell him for the sake of interview. Kirsten says that she doesn’t want to talk about it.

Chapter 22

Since the world is slowly growing less violent, Kirsten imagines that Alexandra, who is fifteen, might live her life without killing anyone. Kirsten shares a tent with Dieter, but they have only ever been friends. They talk about airplanes, and Dieter says he once dreamt he saw an airplane in the sky and was deliriously happy at the thought of civilization existing somewhere. When the first watch of the night finishes, Dieter goes scouting down the road with Sayid. August and Kirsten watch the camp, and two others scout in the opposite direction. Kirsten and August hear a noise in the distance. They wake the next watch and go to investigate. By morning, Dieter and Sayid have completely disappeared, and there is no sign of a struggle.

Chapter 23

The Symphony searches unsuccessfully for Dieter and Sayid. The conductor goes over the “separation protocol,” which dictates that Sayid and Dieter should meet them at the next destination, the Museum of Civilization in Severn City. Someone mentions that in the Prophet’s speech after the Symphony’s performance, he referenced his followers as “the light,” and says that people who believe that they are the light and their enemies are darkness can justify anything. Four pairs of people are sent out hunting for dinner. Sidney (the clarinet player) does not return. Her hunting partner, Jackson, says that she disappeared suddenly. Alexandra asks if the Traveling Symphony is being hunted. Kirsten is worried for Dieter, who she regards as family, and for Sayid, who she cares for despite their arguments. August leaves a short poem in Kirsten’s pocket, and she thanks him for it.

Scouting ahead, August and Kirsten find a golf course. They use a net to catch many fish from a man-made pond. After a heavy rain, they return to find that the Symphony is gone. They cook and eat some of the fish, knowing that it will spoil in the heat of the day. They continue on the route that the Symphony would have taken but do not find any sign of them. August and Kirsten sleep under a tree near an overpass.

Chapter 24

The next day, August and Kirsten stop at a gas station. A middle-aged man with a rifle approaches them. His name is Finn, and he tells August and Kirsten that they can refill their bottles at a nearby water pump. Kirsten notices a scar on Finn’s face like the symbol she saw on the boarded-up houses in St. Deborah by the Water. August and Kirsten learn that Finn lived in St. Deborah by the Water but left when the Prophet took over. He tells them that there is supposed to be a decent-sized population in Severn City. 

Kirsten and August come across a house that has not been looted. Kirsten finds a dress and August finds a model of the Starship Enterprise. Kirsten hopes to find a copy of Dear V.: An Unauthorized Portrait of Arthur Leander. It is a book of letters from Arthur to a female friend (Victoria) who is identified only as “V.” in the book. When Kirsten and her brother left Toronto, it was the one book that she took with her, because her mother had told her that she was not allowed to read it. 

Chapter 25

This chapter contains some letters from the book Dear V. The first few letters are from Arthur when he is nineteen and living in Toronto. He describes the city, his acting classes, and his friend Clark.

In one letter, Arthur accuses V. of not being a good friend, since she has not written back in months. Arthur says he will not write to her anymore.

Years later, Arthur has seen V. on a visit home: she now has four kids. Arthur is getting married to Miranda, and he wants to be friends with V. again.

The next letter describes how Arthur is falling in love with Elizabeth, despite being married to Miranda. (This is the letter that Miranda saw the first few lines of in Arthur’s study).

Clark comes to visit Arthur, who is now married to Elizabeth. Arthur no longer enjoys spending time with Clark like he did when he was younger.

Chapter 26

Three weeks before the collapse, Elizabeth calls Clark and tells him about the book Dear V. Elizabeth has heard that she and Clark are mentioned in Arthur’s letters, and that Arthur spares no detail in describing his marriages and friendships. Clark immediately wants to find a copy and worries that other people will read intimate details about his life, or that his reputation will be sullied. Clark goes to a work appointment, distracted by the thought of the book. Clark helps companies improve the performance of their executives. On the day he learns about Dear V., Clark is interviewing a woman named Dahlia about her boss. Dahlia talks to Clark about the nature of Clark’s job, arguing that he might be able to change an executive’s behavior, but the executive will still be unhappy. Dahlia tells Clark that many adults “sleepwalk” their way through life, living for nothing but work and experiencing no true joy. Clark realizes that he is just going through the motions of his life, and he can’t remember the last time he felt true awe or purpose. He wonders if Arthur describes Clark’s life of drudgery in the book.


Memory acts as an agent of both comfort and of pain. Kirsten and her friends in the Symphony often take comfort in their memories of the time before the pandemic. They not only bring her comfort but also help her hold a sense of herself. As these moments span the before and the after, they hold her together as a whole person. However, Kirsten also theorizes that the more someone remembers from the time before the pandemic, the more difficult the transition into the post-catastrophe life can be. Because of this, there are some memories that Kirsten avoids. She refuses to discuss her time on the road before her brother died or the story of the two men she killed. In this way, though memories of the past seem vital, they can also be a painful reminder of all that was lost. The dual nature of memory in the novel as both a source of comfort and of pain mirrors the complex relationships that the characters each have with their own pasts.

The untouched house is a symbol of the haunted world Kirsten and her companions inhabit. It is a world full of both tenderness and the horror of loss. A rare artifact from the collapse, the untouched house preserves life as it was before. This allows Kirsten to long for the moments of normalcy that marked her life before, such as flipping on a light switch and having a room flood with light. The bathroom is a sort of mausoleum of the lost normal, and she lingers in it as long as she can as though trying to preserve just a taste of what it was like before. At the same time, the preserved house truly is a crypt with the little boy’s remains in his bed. His death haunts their trip through the house, and the smell of death is everywhere. This suggests that every memory of the past is shot through with the reality of death and loss. Tenderness and grief are inextricable.

Star Trek symbolizes both the best of the old world and the hope for humanity in the future. The facts that the Symphony’s motto comes from Star Trek and that Kirsten has the motto tattooed on her body underscore how important the show is to their community, even for those too young to remember television. Star Trek was a cultural phenomenon with immense power in the old world, but in August’s time, it exists only in the memory of people like him. Finding the model of the Starship Enterprise in the untouched house fills August with hope, and he carries it with him as a talisman throughout the rest of the novel. Both space travel and television are revered in the post-apocalyptic world as pinnacles of human civilization before the fall. Like art, these achievements of modern technology imbue their lives with meaning and solace.