Summary and Analysis
The first stop on the world tour is in Guatemala. Nicholas shares his knowledge of Mayan civilization from his youth. As the tour progresses toward Yaxhá, the brothers are confused as to what they are supposed to be seeing, until they learn that the jungle literally swallowed the abandoned city. They are shocked to learn that the city was overcome by the jungle not once but twice — 80 years ago, sections of the city were restored. Micah is incredulous: just six hours removed from Fort Lauderdale and bagels with cream cheese, the Sparks brothers are literally in a whole new world. Micah and Nicholas are the first two who are able to climb to the top of a temple. Nicholas calls Cathy from his satellite phone to share his excitement and she shares his enthusiasm.
That night a number of the tourists fail to heed the warnings of the physician and eat vegetables; some remain sick for the remainder of the trip.
Micah wants his picture taken on the sacrificial stones, which is considered disrespectful by the local tour guide and the local culture. The tour organizers realize that the Sparks brothers may be trouble-makers on the tour.
The brothers discuss their wives and their lives and remember their parents. Nicholas admits that he received his love of learning from his father, and the narrative returns to the past.
In Fair Oaks, California, a suburb of Sacramento, the family rented a new house, Dana got her own room, and the family got a dog — a Doberman pinscher named Brandy. Though their parents had reunited, "they continued to lead largely separate lives." Yet this lifestyle seemed to work for them, and for the next four years, Micah and Dana flourished with new friends, whereas Nicholas experienced a slew of bad luck. The closest friends that Nicholas developed each year either moved, changed schools, or ended up not being in any of his classes the following year. So Nicholas began to read enthusiastically. He went through both the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Bible.
Nicholas' nose was not always in a book; he also spent time with Micah and their friends playing with their BB guns. Unlike most boys, though, the Sparks brothers shot at each other. One time when playing, Micah cut his ankle, and even though he was bleeding quite profusely, their mother merely put a Band-Aid on it, told Micah to hold it for a while, and counseled him to rest a bit before returning outside to play.
Although their lives were sometimes hectic, their mother always made sure the children attended Mass every Sunday. Dana was the most devout of the siblings, but she also was the tardiest and was often the reason the family arrived late.
Dana did not appreciate the occasional wildness in playing, as her brothers did. But one time, when visiting the Grand Canyon, Dana not only suggested the boys and she slip behind the viewing rope but also had the grand idea to stand on a ledge and pretend to have slipped, pretending to be in danger. Although their mother loved the stunt, the park ranger made the family leave the area immediately.
The final story involving the BB guns was how the sheriff confiscated them. He first took Micah's because of a game Micah was playing with first graders, shooting their pants. Then he took Nicholas' after Micah used it to shoot holes in neighbors' windows.
This chapter is the first one to be split almost equally between the two narrative threads. The two narrative threads will continue, distinct yet related, until they merge with the arrival of the brochure advertising the trip.
One of the most important aspects of Nicholas' character is exposed when Nicholas states that his place in the world seems precarious based on the rise and fall of civilizations. He realizes that his life is just one small part of the entire universe.
The similarities and differences between Micah and Nicholas are evident as they begin the tour. First of all, they both married women similar to their mother — "smart women with big hearts, who adore their children unequivocally."
Talking about their wives and then remembering their parents serve as a seamless transition to the past and second narrative thread of Three Weeks with My Brother.
An interesting thematic statement is mentioned when talking about the aspirations his mother had, namely that "dreams are always crushing when they don't come true." This not only pertains to their mother and her desire for horses but also to all the personal hopes and dreams that all the members of the Sparks family have and share. Three Weeks with My Brother is about individual hopes and dreams as well as the response you have when it appears that dreams cannot or will not come true.
conquistadores Spanish adventurers, especially those who led the conquest of Mexico and Peru
Petén a department (region) of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size
UNESCO the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization: an agency of the United Nations that promotes education and communication and the arts
How much of the knowledge that you share regarding the ancient civilizations did you know from your own reading and studies prior to the trip? Did you learn most of it during the trip? Did you conduct additional research as you were writing the memoir?
I knew quite a bit before I visited the sites: they had been, after all, of interest to me since I was a young child. With that said, I certainly wasn't an expert in any of them. Both Micah and I took extensive notes on everything we learned (as well as notes on the conversations we had). On the trip, we were also given packets of information that we kept as well. By the time we were ready to start the book, some of the specifics had faded, of course. Rather than using new sources, we relied on what we had saved.