Chapters 13–15 Summary

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Chapter 13

Bertha Morley asks Will to take her photograph so she can give it to a dating service that will help her find a husband. When Will suggests that Bertha date Harlen, she laughs. 

The narrative returns to the evening Will called Susan and found out she had a husband. He calls her the next day and they arrange to meet. Will expects Susan to be apologetic and upset, but she’s matter-of-fact about the circumstances: she has a husband and two daughters. She asks Will if he still wants to see her, and he worries what her husband, Ralph, will think. He tells her that he’ll be there for her when her marriage to Ralph is over. Susan dismisses the idea of divorcing Ralph and tells Will that she wants him as a lover while staying a married woman. 

Later, Susan calls Will because Ralph has had a heart attack and then amends the diagnosis and clarifies that he had indigestion that he says feels like a heart attack. Will suggests that he and Susan shouldn’t see each other for a while, but Susan doesn’t see why things need to change between them. 

In the present, Harlen comes by Will’s studio to share the news that Bertha is “selling herself to an escort service.” Will tells Harlen that Bertha looked good in the photos he took of her and bends the truth by claiming that Bertha mentioned Harlen’s name as a potential suitor. 

A few days later, Louise calls Will wanting to know why he told Harlen that Bertha is crazy for him. Bertha arrives at Will’s studio as Will is on the phone with Louise, and she asks if he told Harlen that she was interested in him because Harlen’s been wanting to take her out. Will points out that Bertha could do a lot worse than being with Harlen. 

Just like that, Harlen and Bertha are going out together. Harlen clarifies that they’re just friends who got tired of staying home. When he encounters Bertha at the grocery store, however, Will discovers that Bertha has a different impression of her relationship with Harlen when she tells Will that he’ll be the one taking pictures at the wedding. 

The dating service sends Bertha a list of names and photographs of men, and she arranges a date with a tractor salesman. Harlen is relieved and asks Will about the state of his relationship with Louise, saying it’s time they got married. 

The narrative returns to Susan, who finally leaves Ralph. Will imagines moving into a new apartment with her, but the next day he finds that she took all her things from his apartment and left. 

Bertha goes on a few dates but never gets married. Louise doesn’t push the issue with Will, saying that marriage is more burdensome on women than men.

Chapter 14

David Plume visits Will at his studio requesting help restoring an old, damaged photograph that he claims was taken at Wounded Knee, a massacre of indigenous people in South Dakota by the United States Army in 1890. In the picture, a man named Dennis Banks is wearing a red jacket that David is now wearing himself. 

Will thinks back to Maydean Joe, a girl who lived in the apartment building next to his when he was a child. She is intellectually and developmentally disabled, and the other kids in the community call her names. 

Harlen has told Will about David Plume, who drove to Wounded Knee and got arrested for aggravated assault. After spending fourteen months in jail, he returned home wearing the red...

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jacket. David emphasizes that the picture Will is restoring is historic because it “was taken the morning the cops really started shooting at us.” 

In the past, Henry comes up with the idea to put Maydean in the dryer. She stubbornly refuses to get inside, so James does it instead. 

Back in the present, David is in a reminiscing mood and spends hours talking to Will, who is relieved when he finally leaves. Will later learns from Harlen that some men from the community don’t like David because he wears the jacket all the time and is stuck at Wounded Knee. 

In the past, James gets hurt from being in the dryer, and when he gets out he’s bleeding and trying not to cry. Rose comes down to the basement, and Will and James both blame Maydean because she didn’t want to do it. 

In the present, David returns to the studio to pick up the restored photograph. He comments that he has met a lot of Indians who regret not going to Wounded Knee because “they feel like they got left out. It feels good to be part of something important.” 

Chapter 15

Harlen is the kind of man who finds and casts off interests and hobbies with rapidity. His latest interest is photography, so he spends a lot of time at Will’s studio asking him about the technical aspects of cameras. 

Harlen decides that Will should offer a family-portrait special to bring in customers from the reservation. Joyce Blue Horn is the first customer to call and express interest, but she warns Will that she has a big family. 

Will remembers going to get a family portrait with his mom and James. The photographer asked where “the mister” was, and Rose answered that the three of them were the family. When the portrait came in the mail a month later, Rose hung it up on the kitchen wall and left it there until it started to fade and curl from age. 

The next time Harlen stops by the studio, Will tells him about Joyce Blue Horn, so Harlen gives Joyce’s family history, which includes her eleven children, her twelve siblings, her husband’s thirteen siblings, and both sets of parents. Harlen imagines that fifty people will show up for the portrait. 

Will takes Louise out to dinner and tells her about Joyce’s appointment for the family portrait. Louise worries that Will’s studio won’t be big enough to fit everybody. She and South Wing arrive on the day of the photo shoot to watch. 

As Joyce’s family begins to arrive, Will counts the ever-growing crowd and estimates that there are fifty-four people in his studio. Fortunately, Joyce’s husband brought a large cardboard box filled with lunch for everyone, and Louise suggests that they all head down to the river and take the pictures near the beach. Harlen enthusiastically embraces the idea and says he’ll call the men from the basketball team to come, too. As Louise gets ready to leave, she suggests stopping by the Friendship Center to collect Bertha, Big John, and Eddie. 

At the river, the kids go for a swim while the elders sit on the shore in lawn chairs. Harlen introduces Will to everyone as “Rose Horse Capture’s boy.” 

Will thinks back to his childhood summers in Calgary, when the Friendship Center hosted potlucks and social dances for the community. Will and James would play games with the other kids but refused to dance. When Rose had to take a night job cleaning offices, they stopped going. 

Will begins directing the large crowd to take their places for the portrait. Joyce wants Will to be in the picture, and the rest of the family insists, too, so Will uses the time-delay device on the camera. He takes twenty-four pictures, running between the camera and the group each time to reset the camera and pose for the picture. 

Will is pleased with the way the pictures come out, and Harlen compliments them the next time he visits the studio. He picks up a photo that Will is restoring, the family portrait of Rose, James, and him, and notes that nobody in the photo is smiling. 

When Will gets home that evening, he hangs up the restored picture, and next to it he hangs a copy of the photo of the large group at the river. In the new photo, Will is smiling.


Chapters 10–12 Summary


Chapters 16–18 Summary