Study Guide

The First Part Last Love

By Angela Johnson


"You are going to pay when she starts walking and won't let you out of her sight. You'll pay."

I wonder if somebody threatened her that one day I'd love her and want to be with her all the time. Some threat. (3.9-10)

Bobby's mom tries to tell Bobby that he should let Feather do some things on her own, that she might get too attached to Bobby. She's trying to help him balance the love he feels for Feather with the practicality of parenthood. Too bad Bobby doesn't listen.

Don't remember anything except how I walked about fifty blocks and it only seemed to take a few minutes to get home. (14.23)

When Bobby first feels the baby kick, he's at the hospital with Nia, who has some complications. He's so astounded by the beginnings of the love he feels for his child; everything is different now for him. It's going to be hard to give that baby up for adoption.

I mean even in a fairy tale the friends could be asses and stuff, give the hero a hard time when he gets stupid or something, but they're there. When everything gets real hard. Right there. (16.11)

Bobby's friends, K-Boy and J. L., support him no matter what. Is this the same kind of love that Bobby has for his daughter? For Nia? How are these loves different?

I climb the stairs and think about holding her, or maybe I'm really thinking about just holding on to her. (17.45)

After Bobby is arrested for vandalism and comes home to his mom and Feather, he realizes that Feather is anchoring him to adulthood. Yes, she's a responsibility, but Bobby thinks that he's becoming a better person because of her hold on him.

He moved there to be close to his kids after he divorced his wife, Melanie.

He says, "I never thought I could live in a small town." (21.40-41)

Paul, Bobby's brother, moved to Heaven, Ohio and is pretty happy there. He, like Bobby, grew up in New York City, but he was willing to make a drastic change because of his love for his children. The question is, what sort of changes will Bobby make for Feather?

I say it like I've known it forever, only now it's so clear and I can say it: "I've never been closer to or loved anybody more than I love Feather." (21.51)

Love makes us vulnerable, and it's hard to share these intimacies with others. We should think about what prevents Bobby from saying this in the first place and what exactly causes him to articulate it now.

I know then that even when everything's changing, Feather's not gonna mind as long as she's with me. (23.33)

It's a big change when Bobby moves in with his father in Brooklyn. How might this change affect the relationships Bobby has with his friends and family?

But it didn't matter what was going on, baby; I kept telling her about you.

Damn right, I kept telling her about you. (28.18-19)

When Bobby and his friends visit Nia in the nursing home, Bobby tells Nia about their daughter. Even when he's tired and there's commotion around them, he talks to Nia; he feels it's so important that Nia, even though she might not be conscious, know about Feather. Right here, we see that Bobby's trying to do the right thing by both Nia and Feather.

She came to me so slowly I felt like I was in a dream. Four steps away, three, then two…

Then she was all dark hair, hands in fists, Nia's nose and mouth. She came to me so slow, and it was just like somebody brushed the air with a feather. (29.37-38)

Bobby's daughter is the only connection he has to Nia. But boy, is this connection strong; he pretty much falls in love with his daughter at first sight. Cue the sappy music and all that.

"You don't have to do it. This baby is wanted. There's a family that wants her. They're set up to take her and love her—"

"But I love her, and even though I'm not set up for her, she's mine. And I'm hers." (29.50-51)

This is kind of the point of the novel: Love isn't convenient. It's not about want. Love exists. And even though Feather and Bobby need a lot more than love to make their little family work, the foundation of love they have is enough for a good beginning.

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