Summary: PART 5. TORONTO
Jeevan has booked an interview in a fancy hotel room with Arthur Leander. He hopes that Arthur doesn’t recognize him from when he was a paparazzo parked outside Arthur’s home. During the interview, Arthur, who looks very tired, stops Jeevan’s tape recorder. Arthur says that he will tell Jeevan a secret, but only if Jeevan promises to wait 24 hours before telling anyone else. Jeevan agrees, and Arthur tells Jeevan that he is planning to leave his wife Elizabeth for Lydia Marks, an actress in his most recent movie. Arthur explains to Jeevan that he hasn’t told Elizabeth yet, but knowing that the story will break in 24 hours will force him to tell her the truth.
Seven years after the interview and eight days after Arthur’s death, Jeevan sits on a couch at his brother Frank’s apartment in Toronto. Cell phones no longer work, and Jeevan wonders if he will ever see his girlfriend Laura again.
Jeevan recalls taking an unflattering photo of Miranda after giving her a cigarette. He still feels badly about it.
Jeevan and his brother Frank barricade themselves in Frank’s apartment. They have pushed a dresser in front of the door and taped over the vents, afraid of other people and worried the virus will enter the apartment. Each night, they watch the news. Day after day, fewer reports air, until eventually, there is no television signal at all. The internet shuts off next, followed by electricity and running water. Frank continues to work on a writing project, mostly as an escape. Jeevan spends his time watching the world outside with Frank’s telescope. Jeevan remembers a treehouse in their backyard when he and Frank were young. Jeevan says that they can stay in the apartment until the lights turn on or the Red Cross shows up. Frank replies that the lights are not going to come back on.
This chapter contains more of Diallo’s interview with Kirsten. Kirsten recalls the night that Arthur had a heart attack on stage in Toronto, which was coincidentally Day One of the worldwide collapse. She says that Arthur had been nice to her, and she recalls a man from the audience trying to do CPR, but she doesn’t remember his name. Diallo says that the man from the audience was mentioned in the New York Times obituary, but no one knew his name.
Forty-seven days after the collapse, Jeevan goes to the roof of Frank’s apartment building. He and Frank only have enough food for another two weeks. They discuss the likelihood of surviving outside the apartment, but Frank knows that his wheelchair will slow them down. He tells Jeevan that he will leave first so that Jeevan can take his chances outside. Jeevan knows that Frank is talking about killing himself.
This chapter features more of Diallo’s interview with Kirsten. She talks about the paperweight given to her by the handler at the theater, which she still carries in her backpack. The handler called her parents, but they didn’t answer, so the handler dropped Kirsten off at her home. Her parents never returned, so her teenaged brother took care of her. Kirsten imagines that her parents became sick at work and tried to go to a hospital.
Fifty-eight days after the collapse, Jeevan asks Frank to read him an excerpt from the memoir that Frank has been ghostwriting for an unnamed philanthropist. In it, the philanthropist says that actors only do charity work after they are famous and successful. He also states that people who are in movies become immortal.
The transcript of Diallo’s interview with Kirsten continues. Kirsten describes how she and her brother escaped Toronto and walked into the United States.
Frank commits suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills. Jeevan leaves the next day with a backpack full of food, following the lake to escape Toronto. He meets some other travelers, but their paths split and Jeevan is on his own again. The loneliness affects Jeevan’s mind, but he repeats a mantra to himself: “Keep walking.”
This chapter continues Diallo’s interview with Kirsten. Kirsten tells Diallo that she and her brother walked for a year, but that she doesn’t remember their journey. Her reliable memories start with the Ohio town they lived in temporarily. She says that she remembers fragments of things: refrigerators, freezers, and computer screens.
Analysis: PART 5. TORONTO
The characters struggle with the concept of immortality in this section. As Frank and Jeevan survive in Frank’s apartment, quarantined from the dying world, they both think about immortality and what lasts after a life is over and a civilization ends. The last words that Frank writes before he kills himself are about immortality, and Jeevan carries them with him when he ventures out into the world. Though Arthur could be seen as seeking immortality through fame, Jeevan’s interview with him reveals the hollowness of fame. Arthur is remembered and known by every other major character in the book, and if there’s one way that he’s lived on in the new world, it’s through Kirsten. She remembers him most not through his fame and acting but through the small acts of kindness that sustained her during lonely moments of her childhood and into the collapse. In some ways, the question of what survives after everything else is lost is the central question of the novel.
Jeevan’s observations in these chapters emphasize how interconnected the world once was. Watching the systems of the world fail from his brother’s apartment, Jeevan reflects on how interconnected people had been without realizing it. Though the modern era is said to be lonelier than others, there was always an unseen network of people working hard to maintain the electrical grid and deliver goods. He realizes that individual tragedies, like Frank’s injury, are also part of this web of people across the globe throughout time. Jeevan mourns that he, and so many like him, didn’t realize how interconnected humanity was until it was too late. As he walks alone through the world without this network for the first time, Jeevan must work hard to remember himself and to keep himself sane in the face of unprecedented isolation. This network of delicately interdependent lives is the biggest loss of the collapse. The novel reveals that the absence of this network of human society makes survival so much more tenuous.
Memory again serves as an agent of both comfort and pain. Francois seems to reject Kirsten’s theory that the more you remember, the more you’ve lost. It is possible that Kirsten holds on to this idea because it justifies for her how little she remembers of her childhood. At the same time, though she seems to find some comfort in her own forgetting, her behavior contradicts this idea. Kirsten often talks about what she remembers from the past and works hard to keep those memories alive. She holds electricity with the same kind of reverence that she holds art, and it is her memory of light that brings her the hope that allows her to keep moving forward. Ultimately, not remembering her parents and not knowing what happened to her on the road cause her stress and are facts of her existence she returns to continually. Kirsten’s ambivalence about memory mirrors the fact that the past both carries all the wonder of civilization and all the pain of its collapse.