Summary and Analysis
Chapter 17 opens in Tromso, Norway, with Nicholas' call home to Cat. While Nicholas has been away, his children have been taking turns being sick. The brothers reflect on the current state of their lives, and Nicholas shares with Micah what he tells his older sons about having each other in their lives. They end up visiting a Norwegian bar and singing karaoke — once again encountering "Coward of the County" on this trip — and dancing to "Greased Lightning."
After a long morning at the Tromso museum, they go dog sledding. Nicholas believes that "saying that you went dog sledding in Norway . . . is more fun than the sledding itself." When it becomes clear that the aurora borealis is not going to happen, the brothers beg off visiting another museum.
They begin to talk about the losses in their lives, and Micah states that loss increases exponentially instead of cumulatively. Then the narrative returns to the time immediately following Dana's death.
After his sister's passing, Micah changed. Nicholas notes how Micah began to simplify his existence, getting rid of material possessions, believing that "life was for living, not for having." Micah also took over Dana's tradition of singing to Nicholas on his birthday. During this period, Micah also lost his faith. Nicholas turned his grief toward his work and used his brother-in-law Bob as inspiration for A Bend in the Road. Nicholas began to do so much — for his wife, his children, and his career — that he was sleeping only five hours a night.
Micah tried to get Nicholas to relax and de-stress; Nicholas attempted to get his brother to return to church. Nicholas' life continued to be busy — with publishing deadlines, newborn twins, publicity tours, and the regular stresses of life. The upcoming year, 2002, seemed to be even busier than any previous year. It was in that year that the travel brochure arrived.
As the trip and the memoir come to a close, the brothers begin to provide some closure to the narrative.
Nicholas is speaking to readers as well as his brother as he recounts why Miles and Ryan have each other: so Ryan could learn that "anything is possible" and Miles could learn "patience and persistence and how to overcome challenges." These ideas not only reflect Nicholas' attitudes toward his sons, they also represent why Nicholas and Micah have each other, and on a more universal level, they represent what all brothers could be for one another.
When Micah tells Nicholas what he really wants to say to people who call him after experiencing the death of a loved one, which is, "even after years, you still find yourself thinking about the person you lost, and get sad about it. And you still miss them all the time," he is also speaking to the readers about the reality of loss. Yet Micah realizes that is not what people want to hear, so he tells them that "the pain goes away."
Nicholas' response to Micah's honesty is a direct thematic statement that applies to the entire memoir: "It hurts, but you've got to go on anyway." That is what the brothers are doing with their lives. Their lives continued to be hectic, yet they realize that they have their wives, their families, and each other, and that is how they are going to go on anyway.
Throughout the memoir you write of "endless lectures," "boring museums," and "pottery." What effect did you hope to achieve by writing so honestly about the sites you were visiting?
If writing is about truth, then writing a memoir means writing the absolute truth. I didn't mind the museums at first, but after a while, they began to sort of run together. I wrote as much because it was true. Believe it or not, I did get some angry letters from readers because of it, but I would rather have told the truth and received the angry letters than to have written a falsehood. Still, at the same time, I did my best to express my sense of wonder at the places we visited. I consider myself lucky for having visited Easter Island or Lalibela and even though years have passed since then, the images from that trip stay with me. It was a trip I'll never forget, and I did my best to be truthful about that, too.
You are an ardent reader. What are some of the most recent books that you have read that you would highly recommend?
This is always such a difficult question because I do read so much, but I'll limit it to the past few weeks to make things easier. I enjoyed, They Would be Kings, which told the true story about Dreamworks, I enjoyed The Passage, and I enjoyed Matterhorn.