Summary and Analysis
April 1982 (III)
David has come home the night before with Rosemary to take care of her, and he and Norah fought over what to do. Norah goes with Bree to see an oncologist.
Downstairs, Paul watches Rosemary sleep on the couch and is fascinated. When she wakes up, they talk, each hurting the other’s feelings without meaning to. She explains that she was living in David’s old house, and Paul is jealous that she’s been to the house where his father was born.
Paul goes outside to play his guitar, and Rosemary is impressed. He tells her about his twin sister dying at birth. They tell each other things that David doesn’t know about them: Rosemary doesn’t like bananas; Paul has been accepted to Juilliard.
Norah and David arrive home and argue about Rosemary. David promises that he doesn’t love the girl. Norah tells David about Bree’s cancer, which has been detected early enough to treat. Paul tells David he wants to go to Juilliard and expects his father to yell at him about it. But David expresses pride over his son. Stunned, Paul starts to cry. He runs out of the house, overwhelmed with emotion about Bree’s diagnosis, Rosemary’s presence, his parents’ fight, and David’s sudden acceptance. He steals an idling car he finds on the curb and drives off.
Unlike Caroline’s and David’s experiences of closure in the previous two chapters, Paul is still waiting for his own climactic event to make sense of his life. In this chapter, his confusion overwhelms him. He doesn’t understand the feelings he has toward Rosemary, feelings of jealousy, desire, protectiveness, and suspicion. He doesn’t understand his father’s sudden acceptance of him. He doesn’t understand his parents’ marriage. And on top of all that, he learns that his aunt Bree has cancer. His response to this storm of events and feelings is to take his only expressive outlet—his guitar—and flee.
Paul’s confusion is reflected in the mixed-up relationships in this chapter. David brings home a teenage pregnant woman, intending to be a surrogate father to her, which makes her a kind of sister to Paul. But Paul doesn’t know if he wants to be Rosemary’s protective older brother or date her. Norah suspects that David is in love with Rosemary and sees her as a rival and a nuisance. For her part, Rosemary keeps Paul at a distance and understands that she knows about what happened to Phoebe and Paul doesn’t.
David’s “rebirth” in the previous chapter hasn’t fixed all the problems in the Henry family. Breaking free from the past is not the same as erasing it. David responds to his son’s dreams differently now, but Paul still needs to process the damage already done to their relationship. Seeing his childhood home and experiencing what he did there are having practical effects in David’s life. He’s brought Rosemary home, an act so out of character that it signals a serious break from who he was before: a man who wanted nothing more than to live a respectable middle-class lifestyle.