Last Reviewed on January 8, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1000
Part I: Family Soundscape
Box II belongs to the husband. It contains four notebooks, seven books, three CDs, and a folder with notes, clippings, and facsimiles.
The family drives toward North Carolina while listening to tragic migrant stories on the radio that mirror the horror Manuela’s daughters are currently facing. The narrator shuts off the radio, and the husband tells the kids Apache stories to transition away from the violence they are starting to comprehend. The narrator realizes how much information the two have picked up between the radio and her husband’s tales. It seems the kids have started calling the refugees “the lost children.” The narrator realizes the new name is apt for the refugee children, who “have lost the right to a childhood.”
Nervous about the negative impact on the kids, the narrator and husband decide to forgo the radio and switch to audiobooks, but this becomes another tangled endeavor. The Road is too rough, Pedro Paramo is not translated correctly, and Invisible Man is too jarring. The family selects Golding’s Lord of the Flies. While not a comforting fairytale, the fictional world of the novel may pull them all away from the harsh reality of the one they are currently living in—which is reinforced when the narrator tries to phone Manuela, but, again, there is no answer.
As the family eats breakfast the following morning, the girl wants to draw story diagrams like she does in school, which reminds the narrator of her own lost work. She remembers the feeling of certainty she felt in the courtroom listening to immigration testimony, but now, on the road with her equipment packed up, she has nothing left but concerns and confusion. She looks at the children in adoration of their innocence as she berates herself about her failing project.
They drive on through the Appalachian Mountains, and the husband puts on a classical piece, telling the kids about the story behind the sounds. The narrator, unimpressed, scans some articles on the internet to find that this piece is not the colonizing catastrophe he claims it to be. Instead, she finds a video showing that the piece is the love story of two pioneers enacted through ballet. The piece ends in a soured marriage, which causes the narrator to reflect on her current situation. She thinks about how in love she and her husband once were and how bitter she feels about this trip. Just as the video is ending and the narrator looks to the woman dancer to see the outcome, she loses her internet signal.
The family reaches Asheville, and they leave the car to explore their surroundings. They enter a bookstore and part ways. The narrator eavesdrops on the book club meeting being held in the middle of the store. She connects the comments about the book to her husband, her past, and her dwindling identity, hoping to find a book for herself that encapsulates her current reality. The girl finds The Book with No Pictures and claims it as her own.
The next day before the family heads out, the boy finally comprehends how to use the Polaroid camera. He snaps a picture, hides it in a book, and later reveals his masterpiece.
That night while the children sleep, the narrator tells her husband a story about her parents. She recounts how they traveled to India years before they got married and how, one day, her father let another woman’s name slip from his lips. The plot twist: the two were married anyway, yet were divorced after she and her sister were born.
Back on the road, the family listens to Lord of the Flies , but the girl doesn’t like it. The narrator wonders what the kids understand and what they pretend to. She wonders if they have exposed the kids to “too much world” on their travels....
(The entire section contains 1000 words.)
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