Summary and Analysis
After the Cook Islands, the trip continues to Ayers Rock, in the middle of the Australian outback. Ayers Rock is "the largest monolith . . . in the world." Initially, at dawn, the brothers are unimpressed with the rock, but at the right moment under the right conditions, the rock appears to start glowing and is quite the spectacle.
They enjoy a hot helicopter ride but not so much the lectures on Aboriginal history. The evening in Australia is exciting as they see stars that are completely foreign to their eyes. Relaxing on the bus back to the hotel, Nicholas is reminded of his first year at Notre Dame.
A strained Achilles tendon mixed in with being far away from home, missing his girlfriend Lisa, and not being the smartest student at school, made for a rough year for Nicholas. He ran a little in the spring, enough to be a part of the school record relay team, but he hobbled most of the summer. One day, while he was pouting, his mother encouraged him to "write a book." So Nicholas wrote his first novel, which, by his own admission, was not very good. The death of the family dog, Brandy, was the first of many tragedies to strike the Sparks brothers.
During Nicholas' sophomore year at Notre Dame, his mother got a horse, Chinook, which was soon followed by another one, Napoleon. Horseback riding became a means for his parents to reconnect — with the children out of the house, his mother began to mention divorce more and more often.
For the last spring break of Nicholas' college career, he and friends traveled to Sanibel Island. There he met Cathy. On that spring break he told her, "You and I are going to get married one day," a statement that proved to be correct. What he did not know was what he wanted to do after his college graduation. Nicholas did not get accepted to law schools. He began to wait tables during the day and wrote at night, completing a second novel. Soon after, he became an apprentice real estate appraiser by day while waiting tables and still writing at night. Soon he saved up enough money to purchase an engagement ring, and after Cathy agreed to marry him, he asked Micah to be his best man at the wedding.
Patrick Sparks comments on dreams in this chapter, and his words have great thematic significance. Even though Nicholas' dreams did not work out the way he planned, his father was proud of him, stating, "Too many people never really try." This indicates the importance of taking the initiative to try something, regardless of the outcome. Those who attempt to make a dream come true will not live a life of "what if?" and "if only."
Even though Micah had moved out of his parents' house and was living on his own, the brothers were still quite close. When Nicholas returned home from school, Micah, it seems, was always there. And even though the siblings were now adults, their mother was still taking care of them, hiding the truth about Brandy's death, to make it easier for her children to handle the loss.
This chapter also introduces Cathy, who, along with Micah, becomes one of the two most important relationships of Nicholas' adult life. This chapter serves as a transition into Micah and Nicholas' adulthood. They are finding their place in the world, and through all of the changes, they still turn to each other, in good times and bad. This is something that has not changed.
The chapter ends in typical Sparks fashion — a juxtaposition of the good with the bad. He mentions asking Micah to be the best man at his wedding because he wants his brother to continue to be "by my side," but the sentence and the chapter close with the ominous foreshadowing of "no matter where the future took us." Initially, this may be read as a positive, cheery statement, but astute readers who pick up on the clues from the trip narrative will realize that Micah continues to be by his brother's side, but through a series of extremely difficult times.