Summary and Analysis Chapter 13



Chapter 13 is a return to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the brothers visited the Holocaust Museum and the Killing Fields. They demonstrate obvious apprehension regarding "events people want to forget despite knowing that they never should." The museum and the Killing Fields are both very difficult to tour.

Then they travel to a Russian Market for "frivolous shopping." The day leaves Micah thinking about his mother and his regret that he was not able to say goodbye. Nicholas tells his brother that he misses her, too.

In the past narrative, the brothers see signs of their mother everywhere, even though she is gone. Nicholas struggles to settle into marriage and take care of his father. Micah becomes their father's confidant, and Cat becomes his buddy, but Nicholas became an outlet for his father's grief.

Nicholas has a struggling business manufacturing orthopedic wrist braces. Soon, he and Cat suffer another loss: the loss of an unborn child. Like Jill, the baby dies "for no apparent reason at all."

Nicholas was now experiencing the normal stresses of life. He was working multiple jobs and writing a book with Billy Mills. After the birth of a son, Nicholas took a job as a pharmaceutical rep. By 1992 everyone in the family had moved on from their mother's death as best they could, and Nicholas and Cat decided to move east. Nicholas offered Micah a chance to take his position with the pharmaceutical company.

Out of the blue, Bob, Dana's boyfriend, called, and said that Dana had had some sort of seizure and was in the hospital. Nicholas was torn between leaving his sister and starting a new life in North Carolina with his family. Micah convinced his brother to move, because Nicholas had his own family to take care of now.

The chapter closes with the image of a teary-eyed Nicholas waving goodbye to his similarly teary-eyed brother: Nicholas is driving away as Micah's image grows smaller in the rearview mirror.


This chapter is about loss. The tour of the Holocaust Museum and the Killing Fields represents one of the worst — if not the worst — stop on the trip. The gamut of losses that make up life are covered in this chapter — dealing with the loss of a parent, enduring the pain of the loss of an unborn child, handling unexpected sickness in a family, and addressing the difficulties of moving your family across the country.

The dominant attitude is that you must find a way to move on because varying degrees of loss are always a part of life. And part of being able to move on is the knowledge that families are always there for each other.

During these difficult times, the brothers are able to find strength in the words of their mother, reminding themselves that "what you want and what you get are usually two entirely different things." They miss their mother, but they keep her memory alive by quoting the words she used to say to them, whether to each other or to their own children.

The closing image of the chapter literally and figuratively is the closing of one door and the opening of another. Nicholas gets in his car and drives away from his family and life in California and simultaneously drives toward his family and life in North Carolina. Nicholas experiences a shift of responsibilities from his father and siblings to his wife and children.


Khmer Rouge a Communist organization formed in Cambodia in 1970 that became a terrorist organization in 1975 when it captured Phnom Penh and created a government that killed an estimated three million people

Pol Pot the leader of the infamous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He was responsible for the deaths of almost 3 million people — almost half the population of Cambodia

Killing Fields a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime

Back to Top