Summary and Analysis
Chapter 15 takes place in Ethiopia. The city of Addis Ababa is comparatively wealthy, and due to a recent meeting of African nations, unusually clean. The next morning they fly to Lalibela to see the famous cave churches. The people of Lalibela wear western clothing, revealing that the town is essentially "an Ethiopian tourist trap." The churches were carved into the stone. Visiting the churches helps the brothers transition into a discussion about church.
Micah doubts the existence of God and believes that prayer does not work. Nicholas, who experienced the same bad things as Micah, views the situation in a different way, not believing that the "bad stuff was God's fault in the first place. Things just happened." That belief makes it easier for him not to think that God was going to change anything. Nicholas explains that when he gets overwhelmed with sadness, he throws himself into this work.
As the brothers share a common experience, their concern switched from their sister to their father. Nicholas' living across the country mixed with his looking for a new house and working a new job made it easier for him to deal with his father. Additionally, his son Ryan was developing differently than their first son, Miles, another concern that took up much of Nicholas' time.
At this time, Nicholas was also looking for a literary agent. After he found one and the manuscript was ready, Warner Books offered a million dollars for it. Right after hearing the news and not having anyone to share it with, Nicholas had to make a pharmaceutical presentation to a group of doctors.
Cat and Nicholas were cautious and responsible with the windfall. He did not quit his job. Besides, they had more pressing concerns, namely Ryan's medical condition. When Miles had a doctor's appointment, the doctor wanted to spend some time with Ryan. After a brief examination, he told Nicholas and Cat that he thought Ryan may be autistic.
Nicholas and Cat were uncertain of how to deal with this news, so they tried many things: Tests. Evaluations. More tests. More evaluations. Through all of this they were unable to get a clear diagnosis. After eight months they still had no results. Their son was now 3 years old and was not talking.
Meanwhile, Nicholas' father had reconciled with his brother, and Nicholas and his father professed their love for one another. Nicholas then found out that his father was going to get remarried and that Micah had met a girl named Christine.
When a film crew was at his house to shoot a segment for the television show 48 Hours, Nicholas received an important phone call from Micah. Nicholas found out that his father had been killed in a car accident. His entire phone conversation was captured on tape, but the producer agreed not to air it, reminding Nicholas "once again of the goodness of people."
Nicholas was torn. After his father's funeral, he was supposed to start a three-month book tour to promote The Notebook. Micah convinced him that both of their parents would have wanted him to continue with the tour, so he does.
After returning from the tour, Nicholas realized what an awful year Cat had been having too. Although he sent her to Hawaii in order to relax, they end up getting into an argument on the phone. She understood the stress that he had had, but initially, he did not seem to understand what her past year was like: she spent most of her time worrying about Ryan, while simultaneously taking care of the other children and the house and supporting her husband in his time of need. After the phone call, Nicholas vowed to cure their son.
He began to work with Ryan six hours a day. His first breakthrough was the word "Apo" (apple). The next day, after working with Ryan again for six hours, Ryan spoke to his mother on the phone, and his first words to her were "I wuff you." That night Nicholas quit his pharmaceutical job to take on the job of working with Ryan three hours a day, seven days a week because now he knew his son can learn.
Life continued to progress: Ryan was getting better, Dana got married, Nicholas' second novel, Message in a Bottle, was published, and Micah finally got engaged. On her honeymoon, Dana suffered another seizure, and the family finds out that for the first time in years, her tumor was growing.
This is an important chapter for the development of the brothers' thoughts on faith. When Micah tells his brother that "I'm not even sure I believe in God anymore," he is serving as an Everyman. Nicholas' response to his brother is a testimony to his personal faith. Nicholas has a view of God and God's place in the world in which prayer does not exist in order to change or solve the problems in the world but rather to help individuals deal with life.
This chapter continues to show that successful people deal with the same problems as everyone else. The juxtaposition of highs and lows clearly demonstrates that just because a person may receive a million dollar advance for a novel does not mean his father will not die in a car accident or his sister's brain tumor will not start growing again.
Stylistically, Nicholas Sparks uses fragments when describing his feelings: "Denial. Guilt. Anger. Fear. Hopelessness." Not only are these single-word sentences, but together they form a single-line paragraph. Both are powerful techniques that emphasize his feelings and enable readers to understand the various and conflicting emotions that are racing through Nicholas Sparks.
Other stylistic devices that Nicholas Sparks uses to emphasize his points are anaphora and syntax. In the lines, "My mother. My sister. My dad. My son. Too many worries in too short a time," the repetition of my draws attention to the personal nature of the many tragedies. Structurally, the sentence artistically achieves a balance that, paradoxically, the writer is not feeling. Thus, the structure of a sentence captures the mood of the writer and the situation.
Paradoxically, the siblings are now "together and alone" as orphans, although adults are not considered orphans. Nevertheless, the loss of parents often leaves people in a childlike emotional state.
Earlier in the chapter Micah admitted to not getting answers to prayers, making readers think that when Micah agrees to pray for Ryan it will not be successful. But readers are wrong, and the experience serves as support to Micah that perhaps his current views about prayer might also be incorrect. But this is an emotional and realistic chapter, for Ryan does not have a miraculous recovery: Ryan is able to develop due to hard work, dedication, and commitment. The miracle is not the recovery — it is the effort that Nicholas made.
This chapter continues with the series of bad things happening to good people. You have no control over the terrible events in your life; you only have control over how you respond to them. Life is a mixture of highs and lows.
Astute readers will recognize that when Nicholas writes that Dana "seemed perfectly healthy," that is actually another indication that there will be problems. The problems are emphasized with the single-sentence final paragraph of the chapter: "My sister's brain tumor was growing again." This powerful sentence gives the reader a taste of the way Nicholas and Micah felt.
Your faith plays such an important part in your life, yet it's downplayed in Three Weeks with My Brother. For example, you mention the Footprints story to explain a Bible passage, sending a message not only to Micah but to all of your readers. How important is it to make your faith a part of your writing?
I view my faith as my own. It works for me, it works for my family, and I'm comfortable in what I believe. That's why it played a role in Three Weeks with My Brother. Because it's part of who I am and to have ignored it wouldn't have been truthful.
At the same time, because I view faith as something personal, I'll work faith into those stories where it's appropriate and benefits the story. Faith was a central element in A Walk to Remember and The Last Song, but it wasn't central in The Choice or A Bend in the Road or The Guardian. The depiction, or lack of it, depends on the story and the characters in the story.