Summary and Analysis
Chapter 5 opens with the necessary, last-minute details of packing for a trip that will take the brothers from the southern hemisphere in the middle of the summer to the northern hemisphere in the middle of winter — all in one suitcase.
Nicholas is still attempting to muster enthusiasm for the trip and even packs his writing notebook, in case he has time to work on another uncompleted novel. Nicholas' flight has him arriving in Fort Lauderdale approximately 30 minutes prior to Micah's arrival, yet when Micah arrives, everyone knows that he is there. Micah's enthusiasm for the trip is in stark contrast to Nicholas' subdued interest. Micah asks his brother if he thinks he is depressed.
Nicholas begins to be influenced by the infectious nature of his brother's attitude. The Sparks brothers are two of 86 individuals taking the trip. At the social hour that evening, the brothers meet Jill Hannah, the trip doctor, who advises them not to eat any vegetables or salads, no matter "how nice the hotel is," and not to use tap water to brush their teeth.
The story of Nicholas and Micah's childhood continues with the family's move to Nebraska, or, more accurately, with the siblings and their mother's move to Nebraska. At the time, the children believed they were moving around the block from their maternal grandparents to allow their father time to complete his dissertation. In reality, although their father did complete his dissertation, their parents had separated.
In Grand Island, Nebraska, the physical differences between the brothers was becoming more apparent: Micah was "taller, stronger, and more athletic." Nicholas was becoming a tag-along "nuisance" instead of a brotherly companion. And Nicholas was once again jealous of his older brother. The brothers have their first fight. Nicholas feels sorry for himself and is unsure about his place in the family. His sister, Dana, offers to be his best friend if he and Micah are no longer best friends. Nicholas begins to spend more time with his sister as Micah spends more time with his new friends. At this point, their mother creates a daily evening ritual where each child has to name three nice things that his or her sibling did for him or her that day.
Their grandparents' idea of medical treatment mirrored that of his mother's: when Micah was cut in the forehead by a shingle cutter, he got bandaged up and told to keep working. The attitude was "good thing there was a garden hose."
Out of the blue, during the next school year, their mother announced that they were moving back to California. Their father had taken a position at California State University at Sacramento, and unbeknownst to the siblings, their parents had reconciled.
From now on, the chapters have subheadings, identifying the location and dates of the three week itinerary. This serves as a means of allowing readers to follow the brothers' itinerary and keep up with the days and places more easily.
Micah directly states an important theme regarding how to live one's life when he tells his brother, "You choose the kind of life you want to live." Not only does this put the responsibility for choices in the hands of the individual, but also it serves as another bit of foreshadowing for the growing up narrative.
The degree of closeness that the brothers currently have serves as a transition from the current narrative thread to the one of the brothers growing up because they were not always so close.
Bits and pieces of important information about their mother is often identified in one chapter and then further illustrated or expanded in later chapters. Here, readers learn that if the truth would hurt her children, Jill would keep it from them. The fight between brothers demonstrates Nicholas' typical pre-adolescent and middle child difficulties, with his confusion about love, individuality, and his role in the family.
Their mother's concern for her children is most apparent when she forces them to name three nice things about each other. Her lesson is succinctly summed up in her own words: "Friends come and go, but brothers and sisters always stick together."
The end of the chapter, a single-sentence paragraph, captures both the end of this brief sojourn as well as the end of the chapter. At this time in their lives, the brothers' relationship experienced some of the typical growing pains, but thanks to their mother's machinations, they learned to appreciate one another. Jill fostered in them a sense of love and respect that continued with them into adulthood.
topography the configuration of a surface and the relations among its man-made and natural features
epiphany a sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something
Spitfires a British single-seat fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries through the Second World War
Japanese Zeros a long-range fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940-45
elusive hard to express or define
Have you embraced Micah's philosophy of "choosing the kind of life you live"? If so, has it changed much since the writing of Three Weeks with My Brother?
I changed for a while, but human nature is hard to change. The years from 2008 to 2010 were exceptionally busy for me: we built a home, I was coaching track, I wrote screenplays and novels, I promoted three movies, I had extensive foreign tours . . . I was at least as busy as I was when I originally took the trip with Micah. With that said, I'm more aware of the importance of "choosing the kind of life I live." The lesson, and the importance of that statement, still ring true, and I try to remind myself of them daily. Like everyone else in the world, I'm a work in progress.