Summary and Analysis
This chapter opens in Lima, Peru, the second stop on the tour, where the weather is very hot. They visit Casa Aliaga, a house that is an example of early Spanish architecture and the name of the 400-year-old home for the Aliaga family. The estate is also home to an incredible art collection.
That night is the Super Bowl. Many on the tour watch the game via satellite television, but the commentary is in Spanish. The bar shows the Super Bowl instead of a soccer game. Micah's team, the Oakland Raiders, is losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and at halftime Nicholas tells his brother he has to have faith, which leads to a conversation regarding Micah's religious faith.
Because Oakland is getting blown out, the brothers leave the bar during the second half. After working out at the hotel gym, they return to their room, and their conversation about Micah's incessant desire to have a good time transitions the story from the trip to their growing up.
Their parents gave them bows and arrows after their BB guns were confiscated. They had an incident with some construction workers, and the sheriff confiscated their bows and arrows as well. Nicholas then recounted visiting relatives in San Diego. The Sparks children were a destructive force, often breaking their cousins' toys. Their relatives were often glad to see them leave.
One time, the siblings witnessed a dog getting killed by a car traveling at 60 miles per hour — this story ends the chapter on a serious note.
Nicholas' reflections on Pizarro demonstrate his ability to analyze historical portraits and not just accept the version told by the winners. This perspective illustrates his inquisitive and intellectual nature. It also demonstrates his sense of history and respect for that which has come before them.
The power of persuasion is illustrated when the locals give up watching a soccer game for the group of tourists who favor watching the Super Bowl. This demonstrates the economic power that the tourists have as well as the clout the tour employees had — or, at least, they understood local culture enough to manipulate the situation.
When the conversation transitions to faith, an important thematic topic of Three Weeks with My Brother is introduced. Obviously, faith in Micah's team is only the catalyst that brings about the brothers' talk about their religious lives and beliefs as well as the role that faith has in helping them handle difficult situations. It is interesting that the discussion is taking place in the present narrative thread yet the need for faith will be most prominently illustrated in the other thread. This juxtaposition is one of the many things connecting the two narrative strands.
The brothers also have divergent views on the power of prayer: Micah's turning away from prayer because "bad things happen anyway" is another bit of foreshadowing; it is also in stark contrast to Nicholas' realization that he has been "depending on prayer for as long as he'd been avoiding it." This difference is clearly another one between the two brothers and serves as a means of illustrating how different people respond to the same type of stresses and difficulties in their lives.
In the midst of all the stress and difficulties, Nicholas is able to keep a light tone, which prevents the narrative from becoming too dark. For example, his use of onomatopoeia — snap — is not only the best way to demonstrate what happened to their cousins' toys but also keeps the tone light because it presents the information in a humorous and relatable manner.
How the siblings dealt with the death of Sparky, the dog, by themselves is indicative of how they learned to lean on one another during times of struggles and strife. Although their contemplation of "why terrible things happen" deals specifically with this incident, it is a recurring theme throughout Three Weeks with My Brother.
Most of your chapters end on a somber note — even if you and your siblings are together, you've just watched a dog get killed or someone else dies. Structurally, how did you make the decision to end most of the chapters this way? Was this thematically important? Important for character development? For pacing?
Structurally, the memoir was unlike anything I'd ever read. It was a story of life that essentially began and ended at exactly the same point in time: on the day I received the brochure in the mail. To write a memoir — or a novel — in that way presented certain challenges and at the same time, I wanted to write a story (albeit a true one) that was interesting to the readers. I wanted to write a memoir that evoked the entire realm of human emotion, if only because that's a reflection of life itself. In childhood, we laughed and cried. In our teens, we laughed and cried. As adults, we laughed and cried. And in between, we were always trying to make sense of things. In this, we're not unique. We're pretty much like everyone else, and by remaining aware of these simple truths while actually writing, each chapter also became "a little life of its own." As much, each chapter had to evoke emotion appropriate to what was being described. It sounds more scientific and thought-out than it actually was at the time. I am, for the most part, an instinctive writer. I write and edit until something feels "right." Then, and only then, am I willing to move on.