Summary and Analysis
Chapter 12 takes place in Cambodia — the most disturbing spot on the tour, with Nicholas and Micah both feeling "out of place" in Phnom Penh. They visit Angkor Wat, whose "City Temple" is the "largest religious monument in existence." The language difficulty is most apparent in Cambodia, and although the temples are impressive, the brothers soon tire of the lectures and ask if they can climb the temple ruins on their own. At this point, both brothers are missing their wives and kids.
The narrative then shifts back to Nicholas' wedding. He and Cat were married in New Hampshire, took a honeymoon to Hawaii, and settled down in Sacramento. Six short weeks after their wedding, at a family barbeque, Nicholas kissed his mother goodnight, and that was the last time she spoke to him. The next day, when she and Patrick were out horseback riding, Chinook stumbled. Jill ended up rupturing her spleen and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 47 years old when she died.
Artistically, the form of the chapter mirrors the feelings of the characters. There is a juxtaposition between the old and new narratives — the out of place feeling in Cambodia paralleling the feelings of inadequacy and loss at the hospital when Jill died. The trip around the world is supposed to be wonderful — just like the embarking of a newly married life — but the painful poverty of Phnom Penh mirrors the sense of loss the brothers feel at the death of their mom.
Even though organs from their mother's body would "go on to save the lives of three people," that information proves to be little solace in their time of grief. Jill's death is a significant event in the history narrative because it is the beginning of a series of losses and disappointments that rock the world of the Sparks brothers.