Prologue: A Lost World

In the Chinese town of Qufu, in Shandong province, is a forest of thousand-year-old cypresses; “jumbled up at their feet” are “acres and acres” of orderly graves, 2,000 years of descendants of Kǒngzi (Confucius). His mound is the biggest (10 feet high) and most distinct, of course, and set apart from the others. It is little more than an “eminent pile of dirt.”

Even now, Hattie Kong, a sixty-eight-year-old American citizen, remembers the site. She grew up in Qingdao, a nearby cosmopolitan port city once occupied by the Germans and now known for its “charming Bavarian architecture.”  She can picture her mother, a former missionary who was disavowed for marrying a Chinaman, standing in front of the “anti-monument” and trying to get eight-year-old Hattie to appreciate the spiritual aspects of the site.

Modern Chinese people are more interested in new things than old, wondering if women should really have to obey their husbands as children were expected to obey their parents and why only the male Kongs and their wives are allowed to be buried here. (Unless the men are bald; then they are not allowed to be buried here either.) Nevertheless, Hattie grew up learning to sweep her relatives’ graves every spring and on other commemorative days.

When Hattie was fifteen, her father’s mother proudly announced that they had found someone willing to marry Hattie despite her mixed blood. Later, Hattie’s mother adamantly proclaimed that Hattie must have a choice about who she marries. Hattie’s father wore Western clothes, took English lessons, and agreed with his wife; however, two months later he stopped wearing Western clothes, stopped eating Western food, and stopped reading his Bible.  

When Hattie heard, decades later, that the graveyard had been desecrated by the Red Guards, who robbed the graves and even stole the dirt in the mounds, she had nightmares. She was sickened to learn that the villagers she once knew well had helped these ravagers destroy “thousands of years of tradition.” Years later, someone would inform the Kongs where all the bodies were if they wanted to reconstruct the graves.

The ravagers spared Confucius’s broken steles (tall tombstones). Some claim to have gotten some of his bones, although they disintegrated within a few days. Hattie, a former researcher and biology teacher, knows this is “hogwash.” Confucius was her ancestor, but she thinks he was an obsessive compulsive misogynist and “a nut.” He did, however, speak about sincerity, humility, integrity, and goodness. He was a “godless fundamentalist.” Family English lessons continued, five hours a day.

She and her parents broke from those “old ways,” and when she looks in the mirror now she sees her “parents’ youth and hope.” Her husband Joe’s ashes were sprinkled from a hang glider, and her best friend Lee’s ashes were dug into a peony bed. Hattie wonders where she will be buried when she dies. Her only companions now are her dogs, so perhaps she will be buried in a pet cemetery.

Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 11-20)

Last week a Cambodian family moved in down the hill from Hattie Kong. Riverlake is an old, all-American town, but things are changing now with the arrival of people from other places. Hattie has lived here for two years, ever since Joe and Lee died at almost the same time. (She thought she should have gotten some kind of discount at the crematorium.) Hattie is still sometimes “lonely beyond words.”

Hattie lives on an open, cleared knoll; the Cambodian family is moving onto an awkwardly placed parcel of land down the hill that is barely cleared and nearly always wet. Hattie watches as two halves of a trailer, the Cambodians’ temporary home, drive by down the hill. Inside one of them, she sees a “tea-skinned pipsqueak of a thing with a swinging black ponytail and a shocking-pink jacket” clinging to the trailer’s kitchen. Her job is to keep everything from falling out, but Hattie can see the girl is not strong enough to do her task. Hattie admires her for doing her best. (This comes from her years of teaching, although she had to retire after Joe and Lee died, unable to return to the campus where they had all taught.) When the trailer hits a pothole, a drawer pops out.

Hattie picks up the cheap veneered drawer, planning to return it to the owners. She spends a few rainy days painting bamboo until the sun finally shines again. Outside, Hattie appreciates the landscape, including the trial balloon marking the site of the proposed new cell phone tower. The town will have a meeting about it, which Hattie will attend, but today she visits her new neighbors.

Although the land is swamped, the trailer is in a relatively good spot. Hattie takes the drawer and some cookies to welcome her neighbors. A diminutive man answers her knock. Although he is probably in his mid-sixties (her age), he clearly has been damaged by life under an oppressive regime. His look is so blank and unresponsive that the closed door seemed...

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Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 21-33)

Hattie Kong is no artist, but she has to re-create herself and painting helps her do that. As she paints, she listens to the sounds of her Cambodians: pounding, chopping, frying, and washing. She is delighted to be able to hear them because she suffers from some hearing loss; she is equally delighted to be able to see them out of one of her windows. “Not spying, exactly.”

Little movement happens until late in the afternoons when the girl sits outside and swats flies as she works either with a knife or a mortar and pestle. Today her jacket is zipped up because she has the baby tucked inside, and both of them are squealing. As soon as Chhung hovers in the doorway, both of them are silent, and the girl begins awkwardly peeling a carrot with her knife.

A delivery man rattles down the hill. Hattie watches the girl greet him and sees a woman in the doorway. Chhung and a boy with a long, blond (obviously died) ponytail receive a large package. Hattie thinks it may be a television, although it is larger than any she has ever seen. That night she confirms her guess as she sees a gigantic television screen playing some show featuring Asians with cell phones. The dogs bark and Hattie stashes her binoculars just before Judy Tell-All appears at the door.

The gossipy woman tells Hattie about the arrival of Carter Hatch. Hatch is the middle son of a professor who died in his laboratory at the age of ninety-nine and whose older brother is still practicing science. Hatch knows Hattie lives here and that her husband is dead (cancer, even though he never smoked) because he took the time to find out, and Judy is certain Hattie wants to know. She does, but she does not tell Judy that.

The Town Hall meeting is the next night. The cell phone people scheduled this meeting for before the “summerlings” would return, hoping for less resistance, but the room is soon nearly overflowing. The gossip begins as soon as Hattie sits...

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Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 34-44)

Hattie Kong blames only herself for getting e-mail when the town first got DSL. Now she is besieged by Chinese relatives, educated people, many of whom live in the United States, who want her to send her mother’s remains from Iowa back to Qufu. That is the tradition they all learned from birth: “Fallen leaves return to their roots.” But it is the twenty-first century and the idea seems outrageous to her.

Despite their insistence that her mother’s body belongs in the Kong family forest and their attempts to create guilt by invoking ancestors, bad luck, and tradition, Hattie remains steadfast in her refusal. Each one writes to blame her, indirectly, for any trouble the rest of the family is having either in America or China, based on their superstitions. She has one word for all of their ridiculous arguments—hogwash.

Riverlake is north, so it is frigid until nearly April, and everyone wears appropriate clothing except for sixty-seven-year-old Carter Hatch, who does not cover his balding head and wears nothing but jeans and a flannel shirt with the top two buttons open. Today he comes unexpectedly to visit Hattie, and she is shaken as she watches him bound up her driveway carrying his ancient book bag.

She opens the door, and both of them are surprised enough that their greeting is rather formal. Hattie lets the dogs run outside, and the adults begin to talk. She notices that his shirt is open because the buttons are missing, and so much of how Hatch looks and sounds reminds her of their young days in the laboratory together.

Hattie is shocked when Hatch tells her that his brother, Reedie, died in a drunk-driving accident; at the time, no one knew where to reach her to let her know. Hatch offers his condolences to her for Joe’s death, but all Hattie can do is cry at another loss. Hatch wonders if he somehow contributed to Reedie’s shocking early death because Reedie always felt as if he had to somehow “catch up” to Hatch, even though he had his own research laboratory that Hatch says was actually doing better work than his own.

He has brought his wet suit and a towel and wants Hattie to go swimming with him in the nearly frozen lake. Her wet suit is packed away but she manages to find it, surprised that her body is so unusually aware as she zips herself into the neoprene suit. When she goes back to the porch, Hatch is gone. He may be already be down at the lake, but she does not retrieve her glasses so she can look. She takes off her cap, calls her dogs, and unzips her suit.


Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 45-55)

Hattie can see Chhung and his son working behind their trailer. She thinks the boy should be in school and wonders if the huge garden they are creating will get enough sun to survive. From her teaching experience, she thinks the trouble this family had in Cambodia has followed them to America; if they were thriving, they would not have come to Riverlake.

The boy is strong and stocky, dressed in the city fashion, and he is digging hard in the clay soil. Hattie thinks about telling Chhung to put sand under the clay for drainage. The girl brings the baby over to watch; when the child starts crying, a tiny woman appears with a bottle. She is untraditionally lovely and graceful as she steps through the mud like a dancer; peace reigns in the garden once more.

In three days of digging, the men have created a giant trench, deep enough to bury a car halfway; now they painstakingly haul the dirt away from the hole, rudimentary farming without oxen. Hattie loads some old Nature magazines into her rusty wheelbarrow. She has always liked the feel and usefulness of wheelbarrows, but she is going to give this one to the Chhungs. She wonders if this is a pitiful offering and considers going back home, but the Chhung men are already coming to greet her.

Chhung sends his son back to work and lights a cigarette. Hattie offers him the wheelbarrow; Chhung thanks her and continues smoking. Just as Hattie is about to mention the use of sand in clay ground, Chhung roughly gestures to his daughter watching in the window. In a moment, the girl, her mother, and the baby appear and present Hattie with a box of raisins and a clear plastic box with what seems to be orange peels packed in sugar.

She thanks them, and the pretty girl introduces herself as Sophy (pronounced So-PEE); her mother is Mum. Hattie asks Mum where she is from in Cambodia, but the tiny woman does not speak English. Sophy says her mother is illiterate but is a hard worker and wonders if Hattie knows anyone who needs a house cleaner or a factory worker.

The baby’s name is Gift, as Mum considered him to be a gift. Hattie is surprised to learn the child is a boy; he is dressed in frilly clothing. Sophy explains that someone gave them his clothes. Mum can bake, but she is also a careful worker with even the most complicated things. Mum is a Buddhist who constantly thinks about karma.

Sophy thinks all religion is fake and Hattie says she understands as she grew up in China. Chhung watches from the trailer, so Sophy speaks carefully. The son appears and Sophy introduces him as Sarun; the boy speaks and Sophy scolds him first for “talking ghetto” and then for talking like rich people talk. Sarun just grins. Sophy thanks Hattie for the wheelbarrow, for the visit, and for somehow understanding. 

Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 56-64)

Hattie’s walking group asks about her past relationship with Hatch, romantically assuming he has come back to Riverlake to be with her. Hattie says he both was and was not the “love of her youth.” She reminds them that Carter may not have come back here just for her and that she did marry Joe, whom she loved, and had a son, Josh. Hattie had loved Joe, “brusque as he could be,” and still reaches for him in her sleep.

Hattie says Carter disappeared when she took too long to find her wetsuit. She has not seen him for about 35 years, except at his father’s funeral 10 years ago, where they did not speak. The rest of his family had been “floored” and pleased that she came. Hattie lived with the Hatches when...

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Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 65-74)

On the way to the farmer’s market, Hattie learns that Sarun wrecked two cars while racing and is lucky to be alive. Sophy is outraged that the organic produce at the market costs so much more than what she buys at the supermarket. The girl helps her mother because Mum will never learn to speak English.

Hattie asks to buy Sophy some beautiful peonies, but the girl refuses; Hattie sneaks them anyway and later Sophy is thrilled. Hattie explains that her best friend, Lee, used to love peonies. Hattie has to convince Sophy to borrow a vase (all the Chhungs have is a bottle) and to come in for a snack. Although Sophy is fascinated by all the animals, she pets them timidly.

As Sophy feeds Annie some ice cream, Hattie explains how each of her pets, mostly rescued, came to live with her. Soon Annie is in Sophy’s lap eating cookies and explaining that she has two sisters in foster homes. The Chhungs hope the girls will come here when they get out so they will all be together again. When Hattie asks, Sophy says her sisters had to leave because she “was wild” and sinned. Hattie asks (she hopes in a nonthreatening way) to hear more, but Sophy says thanks and races off, almost forgetting her flowers.

Adelaide, the new, young yoga teacher, is moving, and Hattie is surprised to see that Hatch is the temporary teacher. The group of older ladies gathers as they would have for Adelaide, but Hatch is nothing like Adelaide. He starts class by telling them that yoga begins with the head and humorously explains how yoga enhances and retrains the brain as well as makes the body more flexible. The women enjoy him, and Hattie is surprised at how flexible Hatch is.  While Adelaide took a more gentle approach, Hatch is persistent and encourages the women to work harder.

Hatch quietly touches Hattie and calls her Miss Confucius, bringing tears to her eyes; he simply whispers “don’t” before turning his attention back to the class. They talk after class, and Hatch explains that he uses yoga for his back and his sanity. She asks him why he left the other day, and he tells her he knew she was not coming back to the door with her wetsuit. She does not tell him she did exactly that.

Hatch asks if she would like to see the boat he is building. Hattie says most people think he is writing a book, but Hatch has realized he has nothing more to say. In fact, he may actually begin an “anti-writing campaign.” Too many books have been written already; what society lacks is “attentive silence.”

Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 75-87)

As Hattie and Hatch walk arm-in-arm toward his cottage, Hattie thinks that so much and yet nothing has happened between them. In his woodshop, Hatch shows her his “skin-on-frame kayak-in-progress.” He appreciates the Inuit philosophy that valued fishing, boats, and survival more than material things and cared more for this life than the next.

The name of his boat is Disconcerted because his life has become “one long concerted effort,” and he wants to get off track. For his work on genomes, his brother Anderson is expecting the Nobel Prize, which his father never got and only half-wanted, so Hatch is not under much pressure.

They mention Hatch’s father’s funeral. Hatch was glad she came,...

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Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 88-98)

Hattie’s son Josh works for the radio, occasionally e-mailing his mother to let her know what stories he is working on and where he is. Each time she hears from him is rare enough that it seems like “an event.”

Today he calls and talks about the girl (also a reporter) he has been dating for two months, Serena. She is the daughter of a diplomat, a “third-culture kid” who has three passports; he is meeting her parents in Dehli this weekend. She is twenty-three and Josh is thirty-two, but she believes worrying about such things is old fashioned.

Josh and Hattie tease, but sometimes Hattie wonders if her son is hiding behind his joking as much as behind his reporting. His father Joe wanted him to be...

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Hattie I: I'll but Lie and Bleed Awhile (Pages 99-107)

At the grocery store, Hattie tells Everett she is sorry about “his news.” He bitterly says he has wasted 37 years, nearly his entire life. Not quite knowing what to say next, Hattie says she was married for 31 years before her husband died of cancer. This seems to sidetrack Everett for a moment and he commiserates with Hattie over her loss, but soon he is recounting his own woes.

Ginny’s father was a farmer. After he died of heart trouble, Ginny (Everett’s wife) suddenly found Jesus, lost the farm, and wanted Everett gone. Last week she put all his clothes outside in the rain; he brought them in and hung them in their living room to dry, high enough that Ginny could not reach them because of her bad hip. The...

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Sophy: How They Even Got Here (Pages 111-121)

When he is feeling happy, Sophy’s father talks about how a country must have two wheels: religion and the law. It only runs smoothlyruns at allwhen the wheels are equally strong. Pol Pot corrupted the wheel of the law and crippled Cambodia.

Chhung talks about the old days when Cambodians were strong, educated, and advancing; then a series of invasions began. This is history, but it also explains why the Chhungs are so poor today.

Chhung’s “real wife” was a Chinese Cambodian like him; she was tall, rich, beautiful, elegant, multilingual, and proper in every way. When they got married, Chhung stood on the graves of his ancestors to tell them, and a white flower...

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Sophy: How They Even Got Here (Pages 122-131)

Chhung’s first name was Souen, but he had to have a city name when he moved there and changed it to Ratanak. He had to change it back to Souen when the Khmer Rouge made everyone leave Phnom Penh. City names are difficult for Mum to pronounce, so she sometimes still calls him Souen. She has not learned English, she says, because it requires speaking. She is good with her hands, but she is not good with her mouth. Chhung says she just likes to act deaf and dumb, like she did in Phnom Penh.

Mum believes the reason she speaks so little is because of the teacher who lived next door to them in their last town. She walked around nearly naked, and Chhung, of course, liked to look at her. The woman was educated, spoke English,...

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Sophy: How They Even Got Here (Pages 132-142)

Sophy is taken to a group home for girls known to be a “training program for whores.” Others begin to look down on her sisters because of Sophy, and soon they are getting in trouble too.

Sophan runs away with a Vietnamese boy and Sopheap runs away with a Latino drug dealer. Sophan’s best friend, a Cambodian girl, is named valedictorian of her class. Sophy now understands that her family’s problems are not due to their nationality.

Sarun is the “lucky one.” The worst that happens to him is that he is beaten up at school as well as at home; in Cambodia, children become civilized by being beaten by anyone in authority: monks, teachers, and parents. Chhung sees it as his responsibility to beat Sarun....

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Sophy: How They Even Got Here (Pages 143-150)

Sophy has begun praying to something other than the Buddha, and she knows her parents would not approve. Being Cambodian means being Buddhist, but the blue car from the second church (after the church that brought them here changed pastors and quit supporting the Chhungs) keeps coming to the trailer. Mum always says no and the mute driver, Lynn, is never offended; but one day Sophy asks her father (who is high) if she can go and he agrees.

Sophy loads Gift into the car, eager to see different things on this drive than she usually sees on the way to the grocery store. No other houses have stacked crates instead of steps, and many of them have flowers and other lovely things; the sight of one quaint house makes her cry....

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Sophy: How They Even Got Here (Pages 151-161)

Several weeks later, the church holds its yearly “special camp meeting.” Sophy enjoys the activities and the food, and she feels special when she is able to meet the girls from her Bible study, her friends, in the midst of so many strangers.

The preacher talks about all the times in his life when he did bad things, followed by Jesus talking to him and helping him to change. According to the preacher, God only chastises His children to help them change and become more like Him.

When the preacher asks for those who are “carrying a weight,” an inescapable burden of sin that weighs them down and keeps them from experiencing joy and freedom, to come to the altar, Sophy’s friend Renee walks up and Sophy...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 165-175)

There is an unknown white van in Riverlake, the kind of van used for carrying equipment rather than people. Hattie sees it drive up and down the street until it finally stops in front of the Chhungs; when Sarun gets into the back of it, Hattie sees four or five black-haired kids before the van roars away.

When Hattie later tells Sophy about the van incident, Sophy does not react, but she is clearly upset by the news. Hattie tries to comfort her, but Sophy says Hattie does not understand. Sarun had said he would quit the gang and her family is trying to start over, so Sophy is silently distraught.

Chhung and Sarun used to dig together, but now Chhung positions himself in a chair, keeping guard over the pit...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 176-186)

Everett is waiting on the street corner for Hattie’s walking group to pass him; when they do, he casually joins them. The ladies say they do not mind, but they find “a man in their midst” a bit disconcerting, especially since it becomes clear that he wants something.

After walking in companionable silence (and seeing Jill Jenkins riding with Neddy Needham, which causes a stir), Everett announces that Ginny has changed the locks on the door to the house he built. She claims the house is hers because it was paid for with the money from the sale of her father’s farm, ignoring the fact that she and Everett have been married for 37 years.

Now Everett lives in a tent and is “neighbors with a rose...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 187-198)

Hattie meeting Hatch was unlikely, but they met through unusual circumstances.

When the fighting in China began, Hattie’s mother begged a missionary couple who had just lost their daughter in the fighting to take Hattie to America as their daughter. A few cosmetic changes, and Hattie passed as their daughter; soon after, she was eating dinner with her mother’s family in Iowa. Everything there was different.

Grandpa Amos thanked God for bringing Hattie there, but Hattie’s grandmother was more critical. Both grandparents preached damnation and salvation to Hattie. It was not feasible for Hattie to stay with them, so her Uncle Jeremy, an anthropologist, sent her to his friends, fellow scientists who lived...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 199-206)

After majoring in biology in college, Hattie got a job teaching Chinese at a private school. She liked it well enough to stay until Doctor Hatch asked her if she liked her job. When she said she liked some parts but not others, he suggested she should “go back into science.”

By this time, Hattie no longer avoided Carter, and he arrived at the house during this conversation. Doctor Hatch reminded her that she was quite good at science, something she had forgotten. Hattie had a natural interest in how things worked and understood that there were many things she did not know about the world.

Carter winked at her but kept his distance; Hattie tried to focus on her conversation with his father. She had always...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 207-219)

Somebody from the church donates a computer to Sophy’s family, and Sophy immediately contacts her sisters via e-mail. She excitedly tells Hattie about their lives and says she tries to talk to them about her newly found faith. She is worried about Hattie, too, wondering if she is “with Christ.”

Hattie explains that her mother was a missionary to China who eventually discovered she could no longer try to convert people, unwilling to believe that baptism is the “only door to a sanctified life.” She believed people are more important than whether they are with Christ or not.

Sophy thinks about this, and Hattie asks if her church teaches that her family is condemned to hell because they do not believe...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 220-229)

Hattie has quit giving Chinese lessons to Sophy now that she is going to school; Chhung asks her to give Mum English lessons instead. She offers to teach him as well, but he declines; however, he turns the television off and pulls his chair quite close when she is teaching Mum.

Today is September 12, the day after the terrorist attacks, and Hattie tries to explain the Chhungs that everything in America has changed. As she describes what is almost indescribable, Chhung thinks it is just a movie he would not like, and Hattie realizes the thousands of tragic deaths are nothing compared to the millions the Chhungs and even her own parents have seen.

Eventually Chhung confidently says the Americans will quickly...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 230-241)

Everett’s new home is “driving [Ginny] nuts.” She feels as if Everett is always watching her. The gossipy townspeople turn on Ginny; they are people who, “when they see a wall falling, come to help push.”

Sarun, once deferential to his father, is now arrogant and brazen. Chhung drinks too much, and constantly yells at Sarun. One night Hattie sees Sarun with his hands fastened behind his back and Chhung beating him with what looks like a belt. The beating stops and Sophy brings her father something to drink; Hattie is relieved until the beating resumes. Chhung has traded the belt for a knife.

Hattie calls 911 and runs down the hill. She hears banging and crashing inside the trailer and pounds on the...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 242-255)

Hattie has trouble concentrating on her walking group's gossip (instigated by Ginny) about five thousand dollars worth of missing plywood. Instead she thinks about her conversation with Hatch. When she gets home, Hattie discovers her beloved dog Cato has died. She cries as she drags him out of the house. Cato was with her through Joe’s and Lee’s deaths, and now Hattie has no one to remember them with her.

Josh calls to tell her about meeting his girlfriend’s parents. It went well and Serena’s mother was glad to learn that Josh is part Chinese. If the couple ever has children, they will be a blend of many cultures. Hattie does not tell him that Cato died.

A fire was set at the construction site which...

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Hattie II: Rising to Fight Again (Pages 256-269)

Sopheap and Sophan are just in Riverlake for a visit, since it seemed as if Sarun might die. The doctors drilled holes in his head to release the pressure, and now their brother is likely to live. Sophy explains that Chhung “went wild” because Sarun would not—or could not—extricate himself from the gang. First the gang brought the Chhungs a television set, then the members kept sending Sarun e-mails, and then Sarun went back to doing things with them. This infuriated Chhung, even though Sarun gave his father money. A policeman came just to question Sarun, but their father lost control.

Hattie hired someone to come clean the bloody room. If anyone asks, the girls are supposed to say that an attacker hurt Sarun....

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Everett: What Went Wrong, Now (Pages 273-284)

Everett sits in his tree-house shack and wishes he were somewhere else. He also wishes the Cambodian boy (Sarun) would get better and Ginny would again be the girl he married instead of a meddling woman who has brought trouble on an innocent family. Ginny claims her life is better and more in control now that she has put “Christ on the throne” of her life, but Everett thinks Ginny has now put her father’s farm on the throne and everything is in disorder. He wants to tell the entire story of Ginny’s father, the man people called Rex the Farmer King, and he is going to put truth on the throne.

Rex’s barn used to hold fifteen thousand bales of hay. Everett used to load the barn himself, an exhausting task. He...

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Everett: What Went Wrong, Now (Pages 285-308)

By the time Everett and Ginny return home, they have decided to move back to Riverlake and help Rex with the farm. It has been in their family for over a hundred years and all of Ginny’s family is buried there. They do not tell Rex they are coming, but he was tearfully grateful. Things are difficult, but the three of them begin to make progress on the farm. Ginny and Everett are glad to be on the farm, and Rex is relaxing a bit, as he should be able to do.

But Ginny has been making her way through her father’s accounts and realizes Rex and the farm are in financial trouble. Everett knows that Rex knows it, too, and he hates the thought of having to sell any of his land, especially if his nearest neighbors buy it. Next to...

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Hattie III: The Pride of Riverlake (Pages 311-323)

Hattie continues to get e-mails from her family, accusing her of forgetting their pain and desperation. Perhaps that is true, but Hattie has also experienced despair. She thinks of the World Trade Center being destroyed, Sarun lying in a hospital bed, and Chhung wanting to kill himself. He smokes, drinks, and sits silently; his silence is just as terrifying as his yelling once was.

Mum wonders where she can take her family where there are no gangs or churches, and Hattie does not know what to say. Mum prays all the time now and has chopped off her hair; she is as disengaged from the family as Chhung. Sophy takes over her mother’s cleaning jobs, though Hattie offers to find someone else to do it. Hattie cooks Chinese...

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Hattie III: The Pride of Riverlake (Pages 324-337)

After reading her grandfather’s letter, Hattie wonders if he would forgive her for returning her mother’s body to China. As she flies over the flat, brown plains, Hattie wonders if she should have let her family know she is coming, but she did not know how to tell them her reason for coming. After she lands, Hattie tries to call her uncle and then her cousin, but no one answers.

An “athletic Asian man with porcupine hair” introduces himself to Hattie; his name is Lennie Dow and he is the bone picker, appropriately dressed all in black. He is young but comes from generations of bone pickers, people who “pick the bones out of any flesh that might be left” on interred bodies.

Hattie’s parents were...

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Hattie III: The Pride of Riverlake (Pages 338-350)

Sarun’s gang friends come to visit. The seven boys, although dressed and tattooed like gang members, are surprisingly shy and respectful. Hattie knows they are drug dealers and thieves who are unflinchingly violent when necessary; however, here they joke and talk with Sarun.

Sophy visits Hattie the next day and is impressed with the tricks Hattie has taught Annie, probably the last dog Hattie will ever train. Finally Sophy asks Hattie how to file a child abuse complaint against her father for nearly killing Sarun. Chhung wants to turn himself in, saying he is “an animal who should be in a cage.” Mum is afraid Chhung will kill himself, and even Sarun thinks it might make his father feel better. Sophy vows to kill...

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Hattie III: The Pride of Riverlake (Pages 351-362)

Hattie’s walking group, each with a homemade food offering, visit the Chhungs. As they stand in the driveway, “an enormous piece of machinery” makes its way down the driveway. It is Hatch driving an excavator. The bucket slams (unintentionally) to the ground twice before Hatch jumps down and tells Chhung he is there to help him excavate his ditch. It takes Chhung a few minutes to recover from the shock and surprise, but he has an exchange with Hatch which brings Chhung back to life. Everyone cheers.

“The whole town is giddy.” Chhung still needs help, and the people of Riverlake prepare to get Chhung into substance abuse and anger management classes. Though Riverlake has never had a mayor, there is talk of...

(The entire section is 509 words.)

Hattie III: The Pride of Riverlake (Pages 363-375)

Everett gave his life to Ginny; Hatch gave his life to science. Everett knew Hatch could not love with abandon because he spent his life weighing and considering. Hatch and Hattie “were as good a match” as Everett and Ginny, but they wasted all those years.

Hatch finally asks Hattie why she left research. She tries to postpone the conversation, but Hatch is dissuaded. Hattie finally says she left because the laboratory was an arena, not a home. Though she loved the laboratory, it would never love her back, so she left. To Hatch, the laboratory is like a lake used for swimming, to be left behind when one is finished swimming. Hatch was also part of Hattie’s decision to leave.

Hatch wonders if teaching...

(The entire section is 506 words.)

Hattie III: The Pride of Riverlake (Pages 376-386)

This is only the second community event the Chhungs have attended, but they seem to have always been part of things. Chhung “looks dazed,” as if he has “been reborn.” Hattie agrees and explains to her friends that Chhung has always believed he was reborn into his brother’s life.

Mum shares something she baked: baguettes stuffed with chocolate inside, made in the roaster Sophy borrowed. Everyone loves the treat, and Mum is encouraged to do more baking for the town.

Only Hattie knows that the Chhungs have been considering moving because Mum misses the temple and holidays and they all miss the people and the foods of their culture. And Sophy says she does not think she could ever get used to the cold...

(The entire section is 507 words.)