Chapter 34 Summary

Seeing August

When Olivia was little, she was so used to August that she did not understand how other people could find his face shocking or horrifying. She knew he looked different, but people’s reactions seemed completely overblown. They made her furious, and she sometimes shouted at people—even grown-ups—who stared at her brother in public.

At the age of eleven or so, Olivia spent four weeks with her grandmother, whom she called Grans, while August recovered from a big jaw surgery. It was Olivia’s first long trip away from home, and she loved the way she and Grans could walk around without attracting attention. She felt free because August was not there.

Grans was an awesome grandmother, the kind of woman who would do anything with her grandchildren. She and Olivia had a wonderful time together, and one night Olivia confessed that it was the most fun she had had in her life.

When Olivia arrived home, everything felt different. August rushed to welcome her:

For a fraction of a moment [she] saw him not the way [she’d] always seen him, but the way other people see him.

As her brother hugged and kissed her, she felt horrified by his twisted features and by the trickle of drool leaking out his mouth. The moment soon passed, but it ushered Olivia into a new phase of life, one in which she partially understood strangers' reactions to August.

Olivia has never told anyone about this moment. She would have told Grans, but it was not something she could explain on the phone. And soon afterward, Grans died of a heart attack. Olivia went with her mother to the hospital to visit, but by the time they arrived, Grans had already passed away.

Olivia remembers how Mom crumpled on the floor when she got the news of her mother’s death. It was a shocking moment because Mom is such a strong person. But Grans was her mother, and had been there with her through all the struggles with August. Olivia knows that her mom’s pain was bigger than her own.

But Olivia’s pain was enormous too. She often remembers a secret Grans told her on the last day of that long visit: Grans said she loved Olivia the most out of anyone in the world. Naturally, Olivia asked immediately about August. Grans said she loved him very much, but August had “many angels” who watched over him. She added:

And I want you to know too that you have me looking out for you…I want you to know that you are number one for me….You are my everything.

Olivia understood, and she never shared this secret with anyone. Even now, it comforts her “like a blanket.”