Summary and Analysis Chapter 9



Steve and Jonah have a nice yet uneventful first full day together. Steve teaches his son how to cut glass; they have lunch together and search for seashells. As soon as it gets dark, Steve is going to take Jonah to the beach to watch spider crabs.

Jonah notices a picture of Steve's parents, who have died, and comments that Steve looks like his father. Jonah asks Steve if he misses his father. Later that night, when Steve is tucking Jonah into bed, Jonah asks Steve what type of dad his father was. Steve answers that he was "complicated."

Steve then remembers being at his father's hospital bedside six years earlier. Steve attempts to connect with his father by communicating honestly and openly, but his father dismisses his words as "womanly." When talking to Kim on the phone later that evening, Steve lies to her, telling her that his father said he loved him.

The narrative then recounts Steve's youth. Steve, an only child, had a mother who grew a garden in the front yard and a father who worked as a trim carpenter who could fix anything. Steve's father had one passion in life: playing poker. But that wasn't really something he shared with his son. One time, when Steve was visiting home from NY, he went to the Elks with his father, though his father knew he didn't think the evening would be fun.

Steve's mother died unexpectedly, and in the hospital, Steve's father spoke very matter-of-factly about his own impending death. Steve's father accuses Steve of not wanting to make decisions, which he sees as a primary shortcoming in his son's life.

The narrative returns to the present, with Steve waiting for Ronnie to come home. Steve thinks about the marriage counseling session he and Kim attended, but soon realizes that he hasn't seen Ronnie in 16 hours and is concerned for her wellbeing. He enjoyed the day with Jonah and longs to spend time with his daughter, too.

The chapter closes with Steve alone at the piano, feeling exactly as he felt in the office of the marriage counselor — empty.


This chapter connects the past to the present as readers learn about Steve's life. Two narrative threads intertwine as Steve waits for Ronnie while remembering the rocky relationship he had with his own father. In this chapter, readers learn more about Steve — as a musician, a husband, a son, and a father — than either of his children know.

This chapter develops Steve's character, and it also builds suspense. Although readers learn much about Steve, some unanswered questions still exist. For example, it creates suspense when the counselor tells Steve, "We all know what happened and why you're here," although the readers do not know. It seems that Steve had an affair, but no details are given. Thus, the narrative is simultaneously providing answers while raising new questions.

The image of Steve alone at the end of the chapter shows that Steve sought solace through his music but that he still feels alone. Steve knows that music itself isn't enough. He acknowledges that his time with Jonah is a treasure and that this is what he wants with his daughter, too, though the opportunity is seemingly slipping away.


Freemasons members of a widely distributed secret order (Free and Accepted Masons), having for its object mutual assistance and the promotion of brotherly love among its members

Elks members of a fraternal organization (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) that supports or contributes to various charitable causes

Shriners members of a fraternal order that is dedicated to good fellowship, health programs, charitable works

Texas hold 'em a form of poker in which each player can use any or all of five shared cards in combination with either or both of two private cards to form the best possible hand of five cards