From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
Ethan finds his mom's favorite cookbook. Her favorite recipe is bookmarked with a sprig of rosemary, Lena's favorite scent. Ethan concludes that his mother must be trying to tell him something through her books. Cool.
When he goes outside, it's snowing. Gatlin hasn't seen snow in years, but Lena sure took care of that. This is her peace offering.
After snow angels and hot chocolate, Ethan takes Lena into his dad's study. The lock magically undoes itself again, but Lena confirms that it wasn't a Cast or she'd be able to feel it.
They discover that Ethan's dad hasn't been writing—he's just been scribbling nonsense onto paper over and over. The scribbles of a crazy person in mourning.
Ethan freaks out and tears things up. He knocks over the lamp, throws the laptop, and rips the sheet off the secret painting.
Finally, we see it.
The painting is of Ethan in a Confederate uniform. Actually, it's Ethan Carter, but he looks just like our narrator.
Hearing the destruction, Ethan's dad comes running, but Lena locks the study door.
While Dad is trying to get in, they realize they can't turn the pages of any of the books that have fallen to the floor. When they try, the pages just turn back.
What is going on?
Ethan thinks his mom is speaking in code. It's time to decipher.
Smarties that they are, they figure it out—each page number corresponds to a letter of the alphabet.
What's the message? "[C]laim Yourself" (12.19.247).
Ethan confronts his dad, who admits he hasn't been writing because of grief.
Despite the problems with his dad, Ethan doesn't feel alone anymore. He knows his mom lives on in some way. The cardboard holiday town doesn't seem so deserted anymore.