All right—we've got Jeanne as our adult narrator telling us how cool Papa is for taking them on a drunken joyride in his new car before they return to Los Angeles.
But then we have the final paragraph of the book, which doesn't have any of Papa's exclamations or any of narrator Jeanne's grand, deeper statements on life. We get, instead, a really humble passage that ends like this:
Papa swung left, and we clattered out onto the wide, empty boulevard that ran the length of the camp, back to where our own baggage waited and the final packing. (3.1.54)
Why? The Houstons could totally end the book on an upswing, high on life and optimism, but they choose not to. Instead, we are returned to the moment before Jeanne and her family go back to Los Angeles, a moment that's still full of fear, though also of promise because they don't know what's going to come next yet. But what does returning to this complex and emotional moment accomplish?
It lets us know that there is still work to be done. There's still baggage to be dealt with, literal and metaphoric packing and unpacking to be done. By ending the book in this moment on the brink, we as readers are clued into the fact that there's always work to be done—as individuals, but also as a society.