Summary and Analysis
This chapter opens in Valletta, Malta. After a long flight, the European "flavor and atmosphere" of the island energizes the brothers, who were feeling sluggish. Highlights include the Tarxien Temple, "the oldest known freestanding statue of a deity" and the megalithic temples, "the oldest freestanding stone buildings ever discovered." They visit the Hypogeum, discover that many things they are viewing are replicas, and have a good time laughing about the horrible incidents in their lives. They sing a Kenny Rogers song, visit more replicas, and have their picture taken on a crypt. Then the narrative returns to 1998.
At this time, Micah was running two businesses and helping his sister deal with her health. Dana's tumor was inoperable because it was so deeply imbedded in her brain, and her only option was chemotherapy. The next year for Nicholas was a combination of working with Ryan, promoting his book, attempting to write another, and worrying about Dana. Also during that year, Micah got married.
Nicholas used Dana as the source of inspiration for the protagonist in his next novel, A Walk to Remember. His son Ryan became the source of a character in The Rescue, his following book, and Dana's condition, though periods of hope, ultimately continued to worsen. Ryan started school in the fall of 1999, and that December was the last birthday call Dana ever made to her brother. Nicholas realized this, but he and readers are not sure that she did.
Nicholas' son Landon was born in January 2000. During the next five months, Nicholas watched his sister die, making as many trips to see her "as I thought I could," not "how much I wanted to." Dana died when she was just 33 years old, just days after her twins turned six years old.
Again, the chapter ends with an image of the brothers, this time, standing together at their sister's grave. "It was just the two of us now. Brothers."
This chapter chronicles Nicholas' struggle with his faith — intellectually, he knows that all the bad things happening in his life are not God's fault. In fact, he knows that it is not anyone's fault, these things just happen. But knowing this and accepting this are two very different things. Oftentimes when there is a conflict between intellect and emotion, it is human nature that allows the emotion to win out. To help him through the tough times, Nicholas again turns to his mother's words: "No one ever said that life was fair" and "what you want and what you get are usually two entirely different things." Turning to words of wisdom helps Nicholas continue his work with Ryan, and again enables him to keep the memory of his mother alive.
This chapter also juxtaposes the good and bad, the highs and lows of life — Nicholas is touring for a book while his sister has a growing brain tumor, and he has to find a balance between the extremes in his life. As the Sparks family narrative inches closer and closer to the current trip narrative, time passes more quickly.
The pacing of the memoir is mirroring the pace of life. Events seem to be passing very quickly as his kids get older, his wife gives birth again, and his writing career takes off.
The final single-word paragraph of the chapter, "brothers," evokes the image of the two of them — Nicholas and Micah — standing side-by-side at their sister's gravesite. The visual image captures their sense of loss and loneliness while simultaneously providing a sense of hope and unity. Now readers have a complete understanding of what the brothers have endured and why it was important for them to spend time together on this trip around the world.
Do you find yourself repeating some of your mother's statements about life, wanting and getting things, and life not being fair to your own children? How much of an impact has she had on the way you raise your children?
I repeat much of what my mom once said to me. There was a lot of simple wisdom in the way she viewed the world. Because life isn't fair. Because what we want and what we get are sometimes two entirely different things. Combine her toughness — and the fact that she hated whining — with affection and love and in the end, she helped to create a family that genuinely cared about one another. That protected one another. That believed in one another. She was a terrific lady, and I can only hope that I've done as good of a job with my own kids.