The first thing that I noticed in this section was the profound difference in the lives of Caroline and Al and David and Norah. Though Caroline’s life with Phoebe is hard and full of challenges and discrimination, she finds joy in all that Phoebe does. She also finds joy in her budding romance with Al as he too learns to accept Phoebe and Caroline and the life that they’ve chosen. Conversely, Norah is leading a half-life. She’s torn between leading the role that she’s always lead, as homemaker and peaceful wife, to a career mom who has a job and hobbies. However, instead of talking to David and sorting out her feelings, she covers them up and only exhibits them in small fits of rage and occasional drinking and driving binges. Though I see that some of her agony has sprung from the loss of her daughter, I can’t help but wonder if she would have been stable enough or mature enough to handle a daughter like Phoebe. Part of me thinks that these wild mood swings and pent up emotions aren’t just because of the loss of her daughter and that perhaps the stress of having to care for another child at the same time as Paul would have driven her farther over the edge. Of course, I still can’t justify David acting the way that he did.
Speaking of David, I’d like to take a look at his character. Despite his closed emotions, he is capable of random acts that seem to defy Norah’s perception of him. He has small intimate moments with Paul which show his love in a way that I’m not sure Norah even understands. Also, when they’re at the party and he brings her wrist to his lips and kisses her bee sting, he connects in a physical and emotional way that shows that he still does love and care about her. Though she seems touched by the moment I’m not sure that she ever reciprocates similar moments of his affection. Even though they have grown more distant over the years and Norah talks about how absorbed with work he is, I’m not sure that she is innocent in their marital problems.
While I read this novel I have to constantly remind myself that it’s taking place in the 1960’s and 1970’s. When I read the section where Caroline is fighting to get Phoebe into school I almost forgot that it hasn’t been that long since special education became a mandated things for public schools. It’s interesting to look at some of the arguments that the Board of Education proposes, “To be equitable, we would have to accept them all, a flood of retarded individuals that would overwhelm the system…” To think that it was only 40 years ago that we were fighting against the prejudice of students with special needs and racial equality. It makes me wonder if Norah had Phoebe would she have had the same battle or would she have been just as passive as she is now. I’m not sure that she would have taken a stand, or perhaps having a child like Phoebe would have stirred something in her that we wouldn’t ever see.
The next section takes place 7 years later when the twins are 13, so I’m anxious to see what kind of changes will have occurred within their families and within the world.