Study Guide

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Summary

Our novel starts out with a pleasant ride through the country…but this isn't the family vacation you might be picturing.

It's the fall of 1948, and Deborah Blau, a sixteen-year-old schizophrenic, is finally going to get the help she needs. Her parents, Jacob and Esther, drive her from Chicago to a mental hospital in the country where she will live for the next three years. Dr. Clara Fried, a famous psychotherapist, agrees to take Deborah's case and digs in right away to try to understand the inner workings of Deborah's troubled mind.

Immediately, Dr. Fried can tell that Deborah is a sarcastic whiz kid who loves wallowing in self-pity and retreating to a make-believe world called Yr that's equipped with its own language and walls that keep the real world out. Sounds like the doc's got her work cut out for her.

While Deborah makes progress at the hospital, back at home, her younger sister Suzy starts coming into her own. Esther tries to hide just how sick Deborah is, because she can't stand the thought of others' judgement. That's probably because Pop, her dad, has always been the one really running the family, and he's a pretty judgmental dude.

Jacob is totally uncomfortable with the idea that his daughter is institutionalized, and he constantly fights to bring her home, even after Esther realizes that the hospital is the best thing for their daughter.

In therapy with Dr. Fried, Deborah uncovers the early days of her illness. It all started when she was five and had a tumor in her urethra. The doctors patronized her and called her female parts her "doll," and they told her the operation wouldn't hurt a bit. So imagine the little girl's horror when it hurt so much that she had to go back for a second operation. Deborah has serious trust issues now, and she detests any form of lying.

Uh, yeah, no kidding.

The summer after that horrific operation, Deborah's parents sent her to a camp whose patrons and counselors were openly anti-Semitic. As a Jewish girl who already felt bad about being Jewish (thanks, bigoted neighbors), the summer camp prejudice made her feel even more like garbage.

Deborah's little sister Suzy was also born around this time, and Deborah was so jealous that she remembers lifting the baby out of her bassinet and trying to throw her out the window. The guilt Deborah continues to feel about that incident is crippling. It's what led Deborah to start building Yr—the imaginary kingdom in her mind.

Yr started out innocently enough. Remember what you liked when you were five? Yr was all about hanging out with magical gods who gave Deborah superpowers, like the ability to fly and the ability to turn into a horse so she could run across a great plain at hyper-speed.

Pretty soon, though, Yr developed a dark side, and so the place Deborah went to hide also became a mental prison. She could slip back and forth between Earth and Yr, but she started spending more and more of her time in Yr, and this isolated her from her family and classmates.

Notice we didn't say "friends," though—Deborah didn't really have any. She had people she hung out with because they went to the same school, but none of them were her friends. They didn't understand her weirdness, and that only further convinced Deborah that she's not from Earth, and that she actually belongs to Yr. The Yri gods in turn always convince Deborah that she's poisonous to Earth beings, and that she should only hang with them.

You can see where this is going, right?

In present-day therapy, Dr. Fried tries to convince Deborah she's not poisonous, but this is difficult. Deborah tries to make friends at the hospital, and she does befriend a patient named Carla, but then she becomes convinced that she might poison Carla. Deborah also is terrified that she has poisoned her sister Suzy.

After hard work and a lot of patience, Dr. Fried finally gets Deborah to realize that she isn't poisonous—and that she didn't even try to kill Suzy. Turns out the memory of throwing her sister out of the window is just a recollection of wanting to do it. Who hasn't been jealous of a newborn sibling, right? But a five-year-old isn't strong enough to pick up a baby with one arm, out of a high bassinet she can't even see into, and then lug that baby to a window and open it with her free hand. It doesn't quite check out.

So Dr. Fried saves the day with her logic and compassion and patience. And Deborah? Well, she saves herself through hard work and perseverance. She finally learns to let go of Yr, and she finds her way back to the real world. She rents a room in the town outside the hospital, earns her GED, and she and her former hospital-mate Carla remain friends in the real world, living the dream.

Seriously, folks, we love a good happy ending.

  • Chapter 1

    • Jacob and Esther Blau have an awkward family car ride to drop off their daughter Deborah at a mental institution in the country far outside of Chicago.
    • The Blaus stop at a diner for coffee.
    • When Deb goes off to use the restroom, it becomes obvious that her parents don't want their daughter to be alone: they're concerned about her for some as yet undisclosed reason…but we get the hint that it's a diagnosis of some kind.
    • The Blaus follow Deborah into the diner to keep an eye on her.
    • The father thinks about the diagnosis of his daughter and thinks that the doctors must be wrong: they're strangers who don't know his daughter.
    • The Blaus stop to eat dinner at a nice restaurant that night and go to a movie. They reminisce about past family vacations and avoid the difficult reality of what they're doing.
    • While the parents lie in bed in their motel room, they have a tense and strained conversation about Deborah—which they can do because they got Deborah her own separate room.
    • Jacob wonders if they're doing the right thing. Esther is exasperated because the decision to send Deborah away was hard, and she doesn't want to backtrack now. They each pretend to be asleep, lost in their own sad thoughts.
    • Ah, you can almost smell the dysfunction.
    • In her own room, Deborah takes advantage of the solitude by doing one of her favorite things: retreating into a world she has created in her own mind called Yr. Yr has multiple levels and hierarchies, and Deb seems more at ease and at home there than in the real world. The real world is full of "Shadows," while Yr is where she feels most alive and free.
    • In the car the next day, when the real world conversations invade while she's in Yr, Deborah describes the experience as a "collision of the two worlds" (1.21).
    • The Blaus approach the mental institution, which Deb describes as a madhouse with bars that are fitting because she sees it like a prison.
    • The father and mother react differently to dropping Deb off. Jacob relents that the madhouse isn't for his "little Debby" (1.23), which makes Deb have a "sudden ruthless look" on her face (1.23). "Little Debby" is sixteen, after all.
    • Dr. Linden, the first doctor the Blaus meet at the hospital, describes how the Blaus and Deb look like shock victims.
    • Jacob Blau is a man who isn't much for inner reflection. He doesn't tell his daughters he loves them, and they in turn don't feel like they can confide in him. Ouch.
    • When Jacob tries to kiss Deborah before saying goodbye, she steps away like she doesn't want his touch. This makes him feel angry, and he is known for his temper. But there's no appropriate outlet now, so he just decides to bottle it up.
  • Chapter 2

    • Alone at the mental hospital, Deborah is watched by staff while she showers.
    • It might sound weird at first, but then we learn that the last straw that made Deborah's parents seek out help was when Deborah tried to kill herself by slitting one of her wrists.
    • Whoa. Yeah, maybe it's good to keep a close eye on this girl, after all.
    • We learn more about the hierarchy and construction of Yr. There is the Midworld, which stands between Yr and the Here and Now. The Collect is a part of the Midworld, which is a choir of voices that rev up to drown out both worlds for Deborah. (Yeah, this is all weird, but imaginary worlds and friends are often weird, so stay with us.)
    • Dr. Fried, a prestigious doctor in high demand, looks at some file notes about Deborah Blau the describe a tumor that was removed from her urethra when she was five. The notes also describe the difficulty Deborah had adjusting after moving between Chicago and the suburbs.
    • In Deborah's mind again, we learn that Yr has gods and levels and gatekeepers and "Powers" that can reward her with time in Yr that makes her oblivious to the real world.
    • Jacob and Ester go home and still fail to communicate effectively with one another.
    • The Blaus concoct lies to tell family and friends, including Deborah's younger sister Suzy. They tell some people that Deborah's at a special school, and they tell others that she's at a convalescent home where she can rest for a while.
    • Dr. Fried decides to make time for Deborah's case because she truly believes helping the mentally ill find their inner strength is important. She also believes that many "sane" people don't examine their own lives as closely as those who suffer mental illness.
    • Dr. Fried is kind of awesome.
  • Chapter 3

    • All is peaceful in Yr, and it makes Deborah think problems in "reality" are the cause of any pain that happens in Yr. She can see reality from Yr sometimes through a thin partition that looks like gauze.
    • Deborah thinks back to when Yr and reality collided one day in school. Deborah wrote down the name Janus on her paper, which is a secret name she gives herself when transitioning between Earth and Yr. The teacher asked her about it, and Deborah panicked.
    • This incident describes how the Great Collect and Midworld got stronger. They were created to keep Yr a secret.
    • The Censor was created to control what Deborah says and does, so that nothing will "destroy her and both worlds forever" (3.3). Yes—for Deborah, it's that serious.
    • Even though Deb says nobody likes her, a girl named Carla, also a patient at the mental hospital, befriends her. They discuss whether it's possible to get better, and how privileges for good behavior include being able to walk further and further from the hospital building.
    • Deborah meets Dr. Fried and has her first talk therapy session with her.
    • Dr. Fried is the first doctor to acknowledge that Deborah does indeed have mental illness and isn't faking it to get attention or to be defiant. This realization makes Deb open up to Dr. Fried a little and have hope that maybe she could get better—as long as it's on her own terms.
    • Dr. Fried assures Deb that she won't have to give up any symptoms of her illness until she's ready to.
    • Deborah should feel relieved at Dr. Fried's openness, but she's used to people lying to her. She feels panicked—like there's a rope tightening around her neck.
    • When Deborah refers to the mental hospital as hell, Dr. Fried offers her the hope that one day she won't see it that way. If they work hard together, Deborah can get better.
    • Dr. Fried states she can see a "hidden strength" (3.54) in Deborah and says that she wants to make that strength come forward this time, hinting that she may have failed with previous patients.
  • Chapter 4

    • Esther tells Suzy that Deborah is in a convalescent home.
    • Esther tells her parents that Deborah is in a rest home, but they see through the deception.
    • Esther's dad, "Pop," takes the opportunity to insult Esther by saying nothing's wrong with Deborah's brains.
    • Esther asks her parents to be supportive of the decision to put Deborah in the mental hospital, and she gets support from her brother and sister, who convince Esther's parents that Deb needed the treatment.
    • Jacob has trouble dealing with the decision to send Deb away. His brain says it was the right thing to do, but his heart has trouble with it.
    • Jacob and Esther continue to have problems fully communicating their true thoughts and feelings to each other about the hospital decision.
    • The hospital sends a letter with updates on Deb's progress, saying that she's made a "good adjustment" after being there for a month (4.5).
    • Esther starts to question how she and Jacob may have played a part in their daughter's illness.
    • Jacob doesn't analyze things the way Esther does. He just thinks he fed Deborah and clothed her, so what's her problem?
    • Esther remembers that Jacob had a hard childhood, during which he was cold and hungry. He immigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1913, so he can only look at Deborah and think, Why is she complaining?
    • Jacob thinks providing should have been enough.
    • Esther writes to the hospital to ask when they can visit Deborah.
    • Jacob still hopes that they'll say hospitalizing Deborah was a mistake and that she's not sick. He even argues with his father-in-law about this.
    • Esther instead wants answers about why Deborah is sick—and about whether and how she and Jacob might have contributed to it.
    • After a few months, everyone in the family enjoys some peace without Deborah around. Esther realizes there are moments of calm and happiness. Jacob (even though he denies it as it happens) realizes he'd been walking on eggshells with Deb around. And Suzy begins to "come into her own" (4.15).
    • Suzy has friends over one night. They all stay for dinner, and Jacob and Esther enjoy uproarious laughter. Afterward, they can't believe they haven't laughed that hard in years.
    • Esther tries unsuccessfully to help Jacob accept that Deborah wasn't just unhappy, she was sick—but Jacob can't accept it.
    • Dr. Fried tells Deborah her parents want to come visit.
    • Deborah imagines an iron partition separating her from the doctor. It makes it hard to hear and see the doctor. In Deborah's world the partition has a lock on it.
    • The doctor calls Deborah out on the way she isolates herself and uses avoidance techniques like the gate—it came down as soon as the doctor mentioned parents. She tells Deborah to unlock it and give her an answer about parents visiting.
    • Deborah decides that only her mom should come. She's afraid that her dad might freak out to see the way she really is, and the way the hospital is. She doesn't want him to drag her away from the hospital, because she knows it's good for her to be there.
    • Deborah then goes with Anterrabae, Yr's Falling God, into the Pit. The Pit is a dark and scary place where there are only horrible sounds from the real world and Yr.
    • Deborah remembers being in The Pit before and coming out of it. Coming out is scarier than being in it. When she was a kid, she came out of The Pit during school and could barely remember English. Scary stuff.
    • Esther gets Deborah's letter and tries to shield Jacob from its actual wording of the letter, which states that Deborah "will not see Mr. Blau" (4.34). Esther tries to put it more nicely, but Jacob takes the letter from her and reads it for himself. He gets upset. He insists on driving up there anyway and just staying outside in case Deborah changes her mind about seeing him. Talk about stubborn.
    • Esther goes upstairs to put the letter away and overhears Suzy talking on the phone with a friend.
    • Suzy talks about how her sister is away and about how the family gets monthly progress reports. Then Suzy tells her friend that she can't come over if the next report they get is bad. This makes Esther angry, and she thinks "Deborah! Deborah—what has she done to us all!" (4.45).
  • Chapter 5

    • Dr. Fried meets with Esther Blau for a session when Esther comes to the mental hospital to visit. Fried wants to make sure Esther is on board with the treatment, and she wants to get some insight.
    • Fried says that Esther and Deborah are both smart and stubborn. It must have become tough on both of them sometimes to live with each other.
    • Esther tries too hard to make a good impression and to seem pleased that there aren't any bars on the windows in the doctor's office. Gradually, however, the doctor's candor and compassion help Esther open up. She tells the doc her side of Deborah's childhood events—and launches into her own family history, as well.
    • Esther tells Dr. Fried how she and Jacob loved Deborah. She says that Deborah has to be different from others in the institution, who are screaming and need bars on the windows.
    • Esther explains her own personal family history. Her father, Pop, came to the U.S. from Latvia when he was a young man. His clubfoot, stubbornness, and poverty defined him. Pop treated his new life "as if it were the enemy" (5.13). He was angry. A self-made businessman, he as a Jew moved into a non-Jewish wealthy neighborhood full of old money, and his neighbors hated him just for being Jewish. He made Esther take harp lessons, because that's what the noblemen in the old country made their daughters do in the old days.
    • Esther internalized the idea that her family wasn't good enough. They might have had money, but "for a glimpse into their true value they had only to look into their neighbors' eyes or to hear Pop remark if the soup was too cold" (5.15). We've been told before that the neighbors were anti-Semitic, so we're guessing that the block parties were a little awkward.
    • Esther wanted to marry Jacob, who Pop didn't think was rich or good enough in any way, really.
    • Jacob was smart, though, and he put himself through school to become an accountant.
    • Because Esther's sister, Natalie, had married so well, Pop finally gave in and agreed to let Esther marry Jacob.
    • Then Deborah was born—she was blonde and treated like a princess.
    • Pop made sure that the Blaus lived in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in town. He paid the bills for lavish things Jacob couldn't afford.
    • When Jacob couldn't even afford groceries, however, the Blaus moved in with Esther's mom and dad. Living with your parents is hard enough when you're a kid.
    • Esther regrets how she sided with her father on everything, when her loyalties should have been with Jacob. Esther was too afraid of her dad not to side with him.
    • Deborah was the golden child. She was the thing that everyone in the family could agree was wonderful and perfect…until her health issues surfaced, and the family realized something might be wrong with her.
    • Deborah had a tumor in her urethra, but before anyone discovered this, the first symptom was incontinence. Deborah was five, so she was already potty-trained. When she started having accidents, her strict German governess whipped her, and the family thought the accidents were the result of laziness.
    • Great.
    • Esther feels awful about all of that whipping over potty accidents now. She didn't know the accidents were because of a tumor.
    • Dr. Fried tries to comfort Esther so that she won't feel too guilty.
    • Esther keeps digging into her past and dishing it out for Dr. Fried. She remembers that after Deborah had surgery to remove the tumor, she was in intense pain.
    • Esther was pregnant at the time with Suzy. She was worried about the pregnancy because she had had twin sons previously who were stillborn, but she tried to put on a happy face for Deborah.
    • Deborah had a second operation that was successful.
    • Jacob's business picked up, and the family moved out of Pop's house into their own house in the suburbs.
    • Deborah started coming into her own and making friends.
    • Jacob's business came apart when he discovered his main client's business was a fraud. The Blaus lost nearly everything and moved back into Pop's house, which Pop and Esther's mom then gave to them while they rented an apartment in Chicago.
    • Deborah went to great schools, but her summer camp was anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, Jacob and Esther didn't know about the Jew-hating going on at camp, because Deborah didn't tell them about it for years.
    • When Deborah turned nine, she'd been going to that camp for three summers in a row. Esther says that Deborah was unhappy from her last summer there on.
    • When Deborah was ten, she answered questions on a test the school psychologist gave to all the kids, and Deborah's answers were strange.
    • Deborah wasn't playing with other kids and wasn't sleeping normally. Esther never remembers seeing her sleep. Deborah also ate a lot and got fat.
    • When the Blaus took Deb to a child psychiatrist, Deb got angry and bitter and accused them of thinking she wasn't good enough and needed to be fixed. They stopped taking her to the psychologist.
    • When Deborah was around eleven, the Blaus sold the house and moved to an apartment in Chicago. Esther hoped Deb would blend in better there because strangeness doesn't stick out so much in the big city.
    • When Deb was eleven and twelve, she drew thousands of pictures and showed real talent. Even the teachers at school said so.
    • The family started to see Deb's artistic nature as the explanation for all her strangeness. That felt this way for a few years.
    • And then there was the recent incident that led the Blaus to bring Deborah to the hospital. Esther woke up at four in the morning and instinctively went to the bathroom, where she found Deb sitting on the floor watching blood from her wrist "flow into a basin" (5.37).
    • Dr. Fried explains that Deb's suicide attempt was a cry for help.
    • Esther recounts another list of instances when she tried to intervene to help Deb fit in. She would talk to kids and their parents, explaining how shy Deborah was, and she would try personally to smooth over any social discomfort Deborah ever experienced. Esther says Deborah "never felt unprotected or alone" (5.45). Ah, yes, the smothering mothering.
    • Dr. Fried gently suggests that Deborah might not have appreciated all the intervention.
    • Esther gets defensive, arguing that Deborah's sickness is in spite of all the love she gave her, not because of it.
    • Dr. Fried suggests that Deb did what she did because sometimes sick people would rather hurt themselves than continue to wait for the world to hurt them. Even though it's dysfunctional, it makes them feel they're at least in charge of their own hurt. Dr. Fried had seen another patient act like that.
    • When Esther asks about that patient, Dr. Fried says that he got well but then died in a concentration camp. She's honest. She wants Esther to know you can't protect your children from everything, but that doesn't mean it's wrong to want to.
    • Esther expresses regret again that she didn't put her husband before her father, and she relents that love isn't enough in any relationship.
    • Fried tries to comfort Esther and tells her the best thing to do for Deborah is not to lie to her.
    • Esther makes a promise to herself not to nag Deb when she sees her about why she's sick and what she did to make her that way.
    • Deborah and Esther go to the movies and out to eat together. Jacob, who Deb didn't want there, follows them on their mother-daughter date but stays out of his daughter's sight—although Esther spots him.
  • Chapter 6

    • Deborah meets with Dr. Fried, who asks her for details about her early life from her perspective.
    • Deborah explains how she was only five when she had the tumor in her urethra. It made her feel like everything that was wrong with her was "concentrated in the secret evil inside that forbidden place" (6.6).
    • Deborah had a dream the night before the operation that she was broken apart and then scrubbed clean. Then she had another dream about a broken flowerpot. The bloom of the plant in the pot felt like it was Deborah's "ruined strength" (6.6).
    • The doctors told Deborah the operation wouldn't hurt because they were going to put her "doll" to sleep (6.7). The insult of the euphemism, and then the pain that came afterwards in her private parts, was unbearable. After the operation, Deborah asked the doctors why they lied to her about the pain. They told her it was so she wouldn't be scared. Then they still call her private parts her "doll."
    • Deborah felt insulted and untrusting of almost everyone after this ordeal.
    • Dr. Fried is angry on Deborah's behalf and calls the doctors "fools." She wonders why they lie to children (6.12).
    • Deborah is moved by Dr. Fried siding with her, so she tells her that she thinks she still has the tumor. Dr. Fried suggests that thinking she still has the tumor punishes her, not the doctors.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried a Yri word, "Upuru," which summarizes her emotions associated with that hospital experience. Then, because she slipped a secret from Yr, she's punished by being closed off from Earth.
    • Dr. Fried watches Deborah slip away from reality and wishes Deborah knew the strength she possessed, that all mentally ill people possess.
    • Deborah slips away from earth for days and then returns to the area she calls "Midworld." Here she can look out at Earth without having to be fully present.
    • Deborah talks with Carla, a fellow patient who is quickly becoming her friend.
    • Deborah tells Carla about the visit with her mom. She says her mom asked questions in order to figure out why Deborah was sick.
    • Carla tells Deborah that she hates the people who made her sick. She then recounts how her own mother shot her and her brother and then herself. Her brother and mother didn't survive the gunshot wounds, but Carla did.
    • Deborah explains the hierarchies of the mental hospital. She is in B ward, and D ward is for the more disturbed and truly insane. The thought of D ward scares her, but otherwise, in her Yr world, the Censor, the god in Yr who controls the flow of information between worlds and judges it as good or bad, doesn't make Deborah feel any cause for alarm.
    • Christmas comes, and the mental hospital is decorated. Deborah feels that the festiveness is a lie.
    • Deborah continues her sessions with Dr. Fried. Deborah is growing to trust her, even though she tells Dr. Fried that she's prying into her secrets.
    • Deborah recounts when her younger sister Suzy was born. Deborah was five at the time, and she didn't get all the fuss; she thought the baby was ugly and gross. When her parents insisted she should love the baby automatically, Deborah said, "I wasn't even in on the consultation" (6.56). That was a pretty funny and precocious thing to say, but it marked the start of a downward spiral.
    • Deborah got more and more socially awkward from that point on; even distant family members just kind of tolerated her.
    • The anti-Semitic kids on Deborah's block, who had equally anti-Semitic parents, called her a "dirty Jew" (6.58).
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried about the summers she went to a camp, from the time she was five to the time she was nine years old. The counselors and a lot of the kids were openly anti-Semitic.
    • Deborah recognizes that Dr. Fried is truly empathetic, and she seems surprised that someone from Earth would be so kind to her: "I did not know that they endowed Earth-ones with insides" (6.62).
    • After this session, Deborah finds her own world of Yr is against her for giving up their secrets.
    • Anterrabae informs Deborah that she has to go to the Pit for punishment.
    • To control this loss of Yr's loyalty and love, Deborah slices up her arm with the top of a tin can. She gets moved up to the DisturbeD ward she feared so much, and we get to hear an attendant calling Deborah "a spoiled rich kid" who never had to deal with anything really hard in her life (6.69-70). Not exactly a nice welcome.
  • Chapter 7

    • Deborah is now in D ward and is terrified. Women are lying about or sitting, crying, and screaming at will. No one is pretending to be normal here. The attendants and nurses here are larger and more muscular.
    • Lee Miller is the first person to come up and talk to Deborah. Lee introduces herself as a fellow psychotic.
    • Deborah has another session with Dr. Fried, who learns that Deborah has been moved to D ward. Deborah shows the doctor the marks on her arm from the tin can.
    • Dr. Fried is very concerned. She informs Deborah that it's possible to live in the real world again, but now she's very troubled and can only move toward getting better if she tells why she cut herself that badly.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried that Yr started off as a beautiful place full of gods who were her companions, kept her company, and looked out for her. This was especially true at summer camp and school, where everyone in the real world seemed to hate her, and where her strangeness set her apart from her peers. Yr even had its own language. But as time went on, Yr grew to be full of pain and punishment.
    • There are still days when Deborah is revered as the queen of Yr, but those are only on certain "high" days of the Yri calendar; on the "low" days, she's ridiculed.
    • Deborah describes being screamed at by the Collect and having to answer to the whims of the Censor, whose main job is to keep the secrets of Yr.
    • Yeah, Deborah's world is not what it used to be. It's actually ends up becoming a lot like Earth—full of lies and tyranny.
    • Dr. Fried is pleased with Deborah's sharing during their session and advises her to tell her Yri gods that they will both work very hard and not be intimidated by them.
    • When Deborah gets back to D ward, she feels and hears Yr closing in on her, angry for disclosing the secrets.
    • The ward administrator can tell Deborah's frightened and explains that he will arrange a cold-sheet pack for her. A cold-sheet pack means you're wrapped like a mummy in cold damp sheets for a few hours. It's supposed to calm you down. But when the ward administrator tells Deborah, "It doesn't hurt—don't worry" (Ch.7.37), Yr warns her that those were the same words the doctors used when they told her that the operation wouldn't hurt—and look what happened there. Deborah hears the words and blacks out.
    • Deborah comes to as she's being packed in the wet, cold sheets, and then she disappears into Yr's Pit—a place of isolation and punishment.
    • After nearly four hours, Deborah's freed from the pack and goes back to her room.
    • On the way to Deborah's room, a fellow ward-mate, known as "the unsecret wife of the abdicated King of England" (she's a patient obsessed with rape who is convinced the mental hospital is a brothel), tells Deborah she saw her being raped by a doctor as punishment for not sleeping with him.
    • That didn't really happen, but it lets us get a glimpse of another patient's brand of troubles.
  • Chapter 8

    • Esther receives a monthly report from the mental hospital and learns that Deborah has been moved to the "Disturbed" ward. She basically freaks out.
    • Esther writes to the hospital and says she wants to visit.
    • The hospital quickly responds that a visit right now wouldn't be a good idea.
    • Esther then writes to Dr. Fried asking if she could at least come to have a meeting with Deborah's doctors.
    • Dr. Fried writes back and asks Esther to give the treatment time.
    • Dr. Fried meets with Deborah again and points out the pattern that every time an Yri secret is revealed, Deborah retreats.
    • Deborah then relays another secret to Dr. Fried about an Yri prophecy that the Yri god Lactamaeon told her when she was walking home from school. Deborah interprets the poetic prophecy as foretelling the tumor and coming home from the hospital, or being shamed at camp and then cutting her wrist. She's not sure.
    • Dr. Fried tries to chip away at the reliability of the prophecy, since two of the events had already happened when Lactamaeon told her about them. But Deb is attached to the secrecy and magical quality of her world, even though Yr is becoming increasingly cruel.
    • Deborah tells about being at summer camp and being called a "stinking Jew" by a fellow camper. When she tried to report the remark, she got the camper's name wrong (it was only her first day there) and was called a liar by other campers and counselors. Yr's voices, which tell her that she isn't one of the people of Earth, started to get louder in response to that incident. Deborah also grew hypersensitive to any kind of negative comments or lies.
    • Yr gives Deborah a sense of positive identity by telling her she's their "bird, free in the wind…[a] wild horse who shakes his head and is not ashamed" (Ch. 8.16).
    • Dr. Fried points out that most of Yr's so-called prophecies were told in retrospect, so it makes the gods look like they knew what they were talking about. She's hinting that maybe Deborah shouldn't give them so much power and authority over her.
    • Back in the ward, Deborah notices that the mental patients have the uncanny ability to sense weakness, insecurity, and mental illness in the staff workers at the hospital. One attendant in particular, named Hobbs, is attacked by the sickest members of the ward.
    • One night, a patient named Lucy Martenson punches Hobbs. He lashes out, kicking Lee Miller while he tries to defend himself. His wrist is broken in the scuffle, and some other patients are left bruised and a little banged up.
    • All of the ward members are interviewed by a hospital doctor about the incident. The doctor wants to glean why it's always Hobbs who is singled out for these attacks.
    • Deborah can see the doctor would interpret solving this puzzle as a feather in his cap. She doesn't like his motives, so she doesn't give him the answer, even though she knows the reason: the patients lash out at Hobbs because he is rude and cruel to them in an attempt to distance himself from them. They can tell that he, too, is a little crazy, and he's scared of what they represent, because he knows it's inside of him, too.
    • After Deborah's interview, another patient, Helene, hits her over the head with a lunch tray. Deborah realizes Helene does this to punish Deborah for seeing her in a vulnerable state. An hour earlier, Helene had shared pictures of her family and friends with Deborah.
  • Chapter 9

    • In a session with Dr. Fried, Deborah says that while the summer camp she attended was anti-Semitic, at school she was disliked just for how she was in general.
    • Deborah found herself constantly apologizing to classmates and housemaids at home, but she never knew what she was apologizing for.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried how she drew in her sketchbook and kept to herself at school. When a picture fell out of her sketchbook one day, her classmates tried to figure out who drew it. Deborah lied and said it wasn't hers. She's still angry because she feels they made her lie about it. But Dr. Fried tries to get Deborah to see that she was the one who feared rejection and mockery. Nobody made her repudiate her art but herself.
    • Carla comes back to D ward, and Deborah muses that D ward isn't really the scariest ward in the hospital, just the most honest. All the patients there can wear their craziness on their sleeves and not pretend.
    • A fellow ward member, Lee Miller, tells Deborah about Doris Rivera, a former patient who now lives in the outside world. As soon as Deborah hears this success story, Anterrabae threatens her against thinking she could ever be a normal, functioning person in the world. It makes Deborah dizzy and scared. The Collect also starts roaring nasty things at her to break her hope of ever being a normal person of Earth.
    • Deborah can feel the punishment of Yr approaching to squash her hope of getting better. Even though Deborah is so panicked she can't speak, she's able to get the attention of the attendant, McPherson, who gets her into a cold-sheet pack where she feels safe.
    • More patients are put up in packs that same night, including Carla, Lee, and Helene. Carla, who's in the pack next to Deborah, says the meltdowns that night are because they heard about Doris Rivera. Carla insists it's because Doris shows them that the world could be open to them one day, and this idea makes them feel panic.
    • Deborah is so threatened by the idea she could be free that she starts to feel like she did at home—like a volcano hidden beneath a quiet, still mountain. So she tells Carla to go to hell, which is what you do to a best friend who has pointed out an obvious truth that makes you uncomfortable. Right?
    • Deborah also insults Carla and brings up Carla's crazy mother, who killed herself.
    • Deborah then apologizes and admits that the story of Doris Rivera was responsible for making them all nervous.
    • Deborah realizes that Carla didn't lash out and insult her in return, and the idea of having a true, kind friend makes her scared.
  • Chapter 10

    • Back at the Blau home, Deborah's parents are trying to cope with her transfer to D ward. What does it mean?
    • Jacob has a hard time dealing with the fact that something is really wrong with his little girl. He keeps thinking about the screaming and the bars on the windows of the mental hospital.
    • Esther tries to comfort Jacob by putting a positive spin on things, as usual, but it doesn't work.
    • The emotional strain on the entire family comes to a head at the dinner table one night, when Deborah's little sister Suzy exclaims "She has doctors and stuff! Why is everybody always crying over poor, poor Debby!" (10.3).
    • Back at D ward, Carla smokes a cigarette, and Deborah plans to get her hands on paper and a pencil to do Carla's portrait. Deborah and Carla are able to devise a plan to steal the items and hide them in their room.
    • Esther writes to the hospital and says she wants to at least meet with Dr. Fried, even if she can't visit Deborah or D ward.
    • After Esther meets with Dr. Fried, she feels she's just being lied to about Deborah making progress.
    • Esther's sadness becomes more intense on the train ride home, when she looks at the pictures in the magazines the hospital wouldn't let her leave for Deborah. The magazines are filled with images of young girls getting ready for prom and graduation. Yeah, those would have made Deborah feel really good about herself.
    • Esther returns home to share the news of Deborah's "progress" with Jacob and put on that happy face she makes herself fake so often.
    • Jacob announces that he's going to the hospital the next time Esther does.
    • During another session with Dr. Fried, Deborah explains how she feels her very "essence" is poisonous and capable of destroying people she comes into contact with. She even thinks she destroyed her sister Suzy.
    • During this intense session, Dr. Fried calls Deborah out on her pity parties. The doctor flat-out calls them "camouflage" that allows Deborah to avoid dealing with what really happened to her, like the way the doctors treated her during her tumor operation, or the way her parents set up unrealistic expectations of perfection for her.
    • But the continued pity parties are also a kind of camouflage that prevents Deborah from taking responsibility for continuing to feel like a victim. Deborah glorifies her self-loathing and then doesn't have to do anything to change it.
    • Deborah becomes uncomfortable with what Dr. Fried is making her face. The process makes Deborah feel physically cold. Dr. Fried informs her that it's August, and the cold is merely inside of her. This makes Deborah feel like her tumor is waking up and hurting.
    • The Censor warns Deborah that she's sharing too many secrets, but Deborah persists and confesses to Dr. Fried that she remembers trying to kill her sister when she was five and Suzy was just a baby.
    • Deborah says she tried to throw Suzy out the window.
    • Dr. Fried asks if Deborah was punished for that attempted murder, but Deborah says her parents never mentioned it again and treated her as if it never happened.
    • Deborah feels like a monster her parents treated like a person. She feels she has buried tremendous secrets.
  • Chapter 11

    • Word gets out around D ward that Hobbs, the attendant who was rude to patients because he was probably dealing with issues himself, gassed himself to death in his apartment.
    • The patients see Hobbs's suicide as a way of mocking the patients from a place where they couldn't smack him for it. They had all, at one time or another, tried to kill themselves, too.
    • A new staff member comes on board to replace Hobbs. The patients call him "The Nose" and take pleasure in watching how scared he seems to be.
    • McPherson comes into the ward for his shift, and the patients remark that if it weren't for the ward being under lock and key, he wouldn't be able to distinguish himself from the patients. He laughs at this and says, "We're not so different" (11.22).
    • After that remark, Helene says, "Who is he kidding!" (11.23), but the patients all appreciate that McPherson is compassionate and understanding.
    • The patients then turn their attention back to the new staff member and call him another "gas customer" (11.23), hinting that he's a lot like Hobbs and won't survive there.
    • Sylvia, a patient who hasn't spoken in over a year, announces that the new staff member's religion won't allow him to commit suicide.
    • Stunned by Sylvia speaking, Lee Miller freaks out and asks the nurse on duty to fetch Sylvia's doctor immediately. When the nurse refuses, Lee continues to have a meltdown about it.
    • Deborah admires Lee for going to bat for Sylvia, especially since Sylvia will probably never thank Lee for doing it. Yr likes this, too. But then something changes in Yr, and one of its gods, Anterrabae, scolds Deborah for siding with Lee and admiring her selflessness.
    • Deborah is sent to the Pit for sympathizing with Lee and wanting to help her. When Deborah finally emerges from the Pit, Anterrabae reminds her that she will be punished again the next time she admires someone in the world.
    • The ward members continue to poke fun at the new staff member, whom they also nickname "Hobbs's Leviathan" (his real name is Ellis). They make fun of him because he's scared of his inner crazy in the same way Hobbs was.
    • McPherson sees what the patients are doing and why. He asks Deborah and the other patients to stop making fun of Ellis.
    • McPherson gets Deborah to step out of being self-absorbed and try to feel empathy for Ellis. He says, "Do you think the sick people are all in hospitals? Do you girls think you have a corner on suffering?" (11.71).
    • In response to McPherson speaking to her honestly and sternly, and asking her to put herself in Ellis's shoes and feel for the people who aren't getting care for their mental health, Deborah actually feels joy. She feels respected and trusted to act like an adult.
  • Chapter 12

    • In a therapy session, Dr. Fried asks Deborah if she can see how she has created Yr herself.
    • Deborah screams out that Yr is real.
    • Dr. Fried then asks Deborah to go back to when she wasn't pretending to be normal on the outside, to go back to when she was little and absorbing the world around her.
    • Deborah remembers her grandfather and how overbearing he was to everyone in their family. He made sexist comments but still expected Deborah to be smart and come in first, even though she'd eventually end up being a "cow" and "wasted woman". He seemed angry at the way he was treated for being a Jewish immigrant, but he'd tell Deborah she was just like him and would "show them all". No pressure. Talk about mixed signals.
    • Dr. Fried calls all this history the set-up and "soil" from which Yr grew.
    • Dr. Fried then figures out that Deborah's initial upset occurred when she was very little and her mother went away to recover after enduring the stillbirth of twins. Deborah felt abandoned during this time and remembers the bars of her crib and everything being gray.
    • Deborah also remembers a huge white being and an empty feeling.
    • Deborah now realizes that the white being was the nurse who came to their house to help out. She also realizes that the empty feeling of abandonment had gone wild in her imagination. The bars of the crib eventually morphed into the isolation of Yr's Pit.
    • Everything has grown bigger and more menacing with each passing year, and Deborah finally realizes that Yr is made up of the ghosts of past hurts that she has given power over time.
    • Dr. Fried reaches out to touch Deborah's arm to comfort her, and at her touch Deborah flinches because it actually feels to Deborah like a burn. She even sees smoke, but she still says to the doctor that she'll continue working hard to get better as long as she can.
  • Chapter 13

    • Deborah keeps her promise to McPherson and stops being cruel to Ellis, the new attendant in D ward.
    • Nursing students visit the ward, and one of them is disturbed by how Deborah seems to look through her without seeing her. When Deborah tries to speak to the nurse to comfort her and show her that she really does see her, the nurse doesn't understand what she means. (Deborah's language can be pretty cryptic at times.) The whole incident makes Deborah feel less than human.
    • Later, Deborah sees another nurse fidgeting with keys clumsily, and since she regards herself as a very clumsy person, she identifies with the nurse and tries to whisper some words of comfort to her. This only freaks the nurse out and causes her to get really clumsy and trip over her own feet. Deborah reaches out and grabs the nurse's arm so she doesn't fall.
    • Then the nurse yanks free of Deborah and leaves the room. Deborah retreats into Yr.
    • Once in Yr, Deborah greets all her gods with the traditional Yri greeting, which is the word "Suffer." Cheery greeting, huh?
    • In Yr, Anterrabae reminds Deborah that she's not the same as the nurse. They might both be clumsy, but they're not the same: Deborah is poisonous, and her essence could be fatal to any human she touches.
    • Deborah then has a kind of out-of-body experience during which she stands above herself and kicks herself in the stomach and in the crotch, where her tumor was when she was little. She feels such self-hatred in this moment that she asks all the population of Yr to let her die.
    • Deborah's deep in Yr's Pit when another nurse sees the panicked look on her face and sets up a cold-sheet pack for her.
    • Deborah comes to in the pack next to Helene. Deborah realizes that Helene, too, has stopped harassing Ellis. Deborah also realizes that Helene possesses the strength necessary to get well, and this inspires fear, respect, and envy in Deborah.
    • Ellis comes in to check on Deborah and Helene and take their pulse at their temples to see if they're calm enough to come out of the pack.
    • Helene moves her head around—it's the only thing a patient can move when in a pack. This frustrates Ellis, and he starts smacking Helene hard in the face.
    • The next day, Deborah reports the incident to the ward doctor but isn't taken seriously. She asks the ward doctor to at least question Ellis about the incident, saying that because Ellis is so religious, the doctor might be able to sense that he is bothered if he's caught in a lie.
    • Deborah feels the Pit of Yr coming to punish her for siding with the world and sticking up for Helene. It's the same kind of punishment that happened earlier when Deborah sided with Lee Miller for speaking up on Sylvia's behalf.
    • Deborah decides to tell Dr. Fried about the incident with Helene and Ellis.
    • Deborah now refers to Dr. Fried by the Yri name "Furii" or "Fire-Touch" because Deborah had felt a burning on her arm during their previous session, when Dr. Fried reached out and touched Deborah's arm in a gesture of comfort.
    • Dr. Fried promises to bring up the incident with the other doctors, but she also admits she has no authority over the ward personnel and can't discipline them.
    • Deborah takes offense and feels betrayed. She wonders what the point of being sane is if you can't trust that there will be justice.
    • Dr. Fried sternly and honestly tells Deborah, "I never promised you a rose garden. I never promised you perfect justice…" (13.41).
    • Title alert, folks.
    • When she gets back to the ward, Deborah deals with the uncertainty of the incident by following Lee Miller around, since she feels they have something in common. Lee can't stand to have people following her, though, and she asks a nurse to keep Deborah away from her.
    • This makes Yr's Anterrabae try to convince Deborah that this is just further proof of her "otherness." She shouldn't even try to be a part of Earth— she'll only get punished for it, anyway.
    • A new patient named Lucia shows up and tells the other patients how D ward isn't as bad as the other hospitals she's been in. According to Lucia, D ward makes the patients scared because of what she calls "the little maybe" (13.53).
    • The other patients understand this "little maybe"—it's the hope of maybe one day getting well and being part of the world.
    • The thought of getting well makes Deborah start seeing a dark cloud settling above her. Worms start falling out of it.
  • Chapter 14

    • Esther and Jacob visit Dr. Fried at the hospital.
    • Jacob asks Dr. Fried bluntly if he's wrong for wanting a normal child. He also asks what they can hope for in the future.
    • Dr. Fried says that the point of her work with Deborah is to discover what Deborah wants for herself.
    • Jacob asks to see Deborah, and Dr. Fried tries to answer calmly that she wouldn't advise it at this time, because Deborah is nervous and shaky right now. It might upset the parents to see their daughter like that, and it might upset Deborah, too.
    • Jacob has doubts about why they admitted her to the hospital in the first place. He wishes he had her back—even though she was sick, she was theirs, and they could see her.
    • Dr. Fried tries to explain that since Deborah has been mentally ill since early childhood, it is difficult for her to now try to abandon the reality she created for herself and accept the "real" world in a leap of faith. It's going to take time.
    • Esther agrees they should wait to see Deborah, but Jacob insists.
    • Dr. Fried thinks to herself that families of the mentally ill just want quick fixes for their children. They want them to look and act normal and live according to the family's standards.
    • The Blaus drive home after seeing their daughter, both thinking to themselves about how withdrawn Deborah had been.
    • Jacob comments that Deborah is pale, and Esther says she looks like someone who'd been "beaten to death from the inside" (14.17).
    • The Blaus both resolve to tell their younger daughter Suzy just how sick Deborah really is.
    • Back in therapy sessions with Dr. Fried, Deborah goes back and forth between Earth and Yr.
    • Dr. Fried decides to tackle issues between Deborah and her father.
    • Deborah knows that she is a lot like her father, and it scares her. They both have unpredictable tempers.
    • Throughout her childhood, Jacob was constantly warning Deborah about sex maniacs lurking everywhere who wanted to harm her. He spoke graphically about their diseased minds and body parts. It made her think of the tumor in her feminine parts and made her feel like she must have something wrong with her if all these men wanted to hurt her. This belief was cemented when a man exposed himself to Deborah on the street. Deborah wondered out loud what he wanted with her, since she was already "broken into and spoiled" (14.32). Her father smacked her hard after she said that.
    • Dr. Fried digs into these incidents and lets Deborah see that her father was afraid because of his own lustful feelings, and he was afraid other men might have those kinds of feelings for his daughter. Because he was obsessed with scaring his daughter with these ideas, Dr. Fried also hints that Jacob might have had inappropriate feelings for Deborah. Deborah remembers feeling scared of that, too, but she doesn't remember her father acting on any inappropriate impulses.
    • In Yr, all of these fears about her and her father were dark shadows that loomed large in a place called the Fear-bog. Now that Deborah knows the reasons for the fears, it doesn't seem so awful. She's finally faced the truth.
    • Dr. Fried tells Deborah that replacing Yr will be a long process. Deborah will have to trust that the real world will be better than Yr.
    • Deborah asks if she can still choose Yr if she finds out she doesn't want the real world. Dr. Fried assures her that her mental health—and living in the real world—will be Deborah's choice to make.
    • Back in D ward, Lee Miller tells Deborah a former patient is returning—Miss Coral, a highly educated, petite older woman.
    • Miss Coral's presence causes a stir in the ward. Helene and Sylvia get violent. It takes more than a dozen staff members to get everything under control.
    • Deborah approaches Miss Coral during the ward eruption to ask if she will teach her ancient languages and math. Miss Coral tells her she'll think about it.
    • Deborah then finds two cigarettes in her pocket she'd picked up when a student nurse dropped them. She decides to leave them under Lee's pillow. Lee had told Deborah how smart Miss Coral was, and Deborah also felt Lee still deserved something more for when she stuck up for Sylvia.
    • While Deborah waits outside Miss Coral's room, she thinks that she and her poisonous essence must have caused the riot in the ward.
    • Then Miss Coral calls out to Deborah and speaks Latin to her, promising her that she'll teach her more tomorrow.
  • Chapter 15

    • Deborah starts to meet with Miss Coral whenever they are both mentally available and not closed off from the world.
    • Deborah smells herself burning—like, she actually smells charred flesh. She can only see a single strip of the world, and it's gray—no colors.
    • Deborah eats up all the knowledge Miss Coral offers of Latin and Greek. She has so many strips of paper that she has a hard time keeping up with them. She asks the ward doctor for permission to have a notebook, but she's dismissed with a "we'll see" (15.18). So she steals a notebook from one of the student nurses.
    • Deborah gets frustrated that she's learned so much Latin and Greek, but it's still "so dark" (14.21).
    • Carla tells Deborah that learning new languages might mean her brain is functioning when it comes to that, but it won't bring her any closer to understanding or curing herself.
    • When Deborah realizes the truth of Carla's point, she keeps to herself in her bed for three months, only getting up for the bathroom and for Dr. Fried's sessions.
    • Carla comes to visit Deborah in her room, and Deborah is grateful for the visits.
    • One night, a fellow ward patient, Della, comes into Deborah's room, and instead of just dealing with the noise and with Della hitting her, Deborah sticks up for herself and tells Della to leave.
    • Later, Helene comes in, and Deborah again sticks up for herself and tells her to leave and stop trying to intimidate her. She says her own craziness is far worse than anything Helene could say or do to her.
    • Deborah and Carla talk about Doris Rivera living in the real word and wonder how she does it.
    • Carla mentions that her doctor says being crazy is kind of a choice.
    • Deborah remembers giving up on fitting into the real world because it made her tired.
    • In a therapy session, Dr. Fried continues to try to convince Deborah to tap into her inner strength and strive toward mental health. Dr. Fried knows this will be a leap of faith for Deborah, since she can barely remember what being mentally healthy feels like.
    • Back in the ward, Deborah realizes for the first time that Miss Coral and Carla are happy to see her. She has friendships that are real, and this stuns her.
    • Then Carla tells Deborah she'll be moving back to B ward, and Yr closes in on Deborah, making her feel awful for trusting that Carla was her friend. Deborah realizes that there is a part of her that can feel for another person and miss that person. The Censor and Anterrabae laugh and tease her about it.
    • Deborah tells Carla she will miss her, and she says it out loud. She sees it as a way to make herself suffer instead of a normal part of friendship.
    • With Yr's help, Deborah gets rid of the feelings of loss and friendship.
    • Carla is now like Doris Rivera, on her way to getting better and living in the real world.
    • In Yr, Deborah watches Lactamaeon flying as a bird. When Deborah asks to join him, the Censor intervenes, and Lactamaeon flies out of sight, leaving Deborah alone.
    • Later that evening, Miss Coral approaches Deborah and tells her that she's found a tutor who can teach her even more Greek: it's Ellis.
    • Just the thought of talking to Ellis again makes Deborah dizzy.
  • Chapter 16

    • Esther works up the nerve to tell Suzy just how sick Deborah is. She worries that Suzy will now see her sister as the stereotype of the crazy old woman in the attic, like in Jane Eyre.
    • Esther realizes that this is the same stereotype that she and Jacob worried about at first when they saw the mental hospital.
    • Jacob wants to wait longer to tell Suzy, but Esther recognizes this as its own kind of lie. Waiting to tell Suzy the truth is still a denial of the problem of how Jacob has handled Deborah's illness all along.
    • Suzy is only twelve, but she takes the news in stride and says it makes sense. She's overheard her parents talking with her grandparents, and she's always suspected that Deborah was mentally instead of physically ill. The original lie her parents told her about Deborah being in a rest home for girls just never added up. Suzy takes the news well. She hopes Deborah will get better and come home soon, because she misses her sometimes.
    • The Blaus feel relieved after having told Suzy the truth. They realize that the anticipation of telling her—and the anticipation of Suzy's possible reactions—was worse than the actual act of telling the truth.
    • Back at the hospital, Deborah talks with Dr. Fried. She explains how being wrong about something is like flirting with death. Deborah realizes she protected her pride by retreating into Yr, where she could always be right and escape embarrassment while still clinging to the belief that she was poisonous and ruined.
    • When Dr. Fried reasons with Deborah that members of Earth feel similar wounds to their pride when they're wrong, Deborah disagrees. She explains that she, as well as some other members of D ward, are really different from people of Earth—their essence (which in Yri is "nganon") is poisonous and can poison others.
    • Deborah's belief in her own poisonousness is so extreme that she never lets anyone touch or borrow her belongings, for fear they might poison someone else.
    • When she was younger, Deborah stole from others so she could borrow the purity of their essence, which she thought clung to their things. Then it wore off, and she'd have to steal something else.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried a great secret, that during World War II, she believed she was Japanese. The Collect fed her this belief: they told Deborah that the hate Americans had for the Japanese was the same hate that everyone felt for her.
    • Dr. Fried interprets this belief to be about Deborah feeling she was everyone's enemy.
    • But in Yr, Deborah could fly or be a wild horse. This was the gift that Yr had given her on her ninth birthday—to be able to change form and be her true self, whereas on Earth everyone hated her and knew her Earth image was a poisonous enemy.
    • During the war, Deborah remembers going to bed at night and being reborn as a captured Japanese soldier. The American-Jewish girl was just a mask she wore. The tumor, and her ruined female parts from the operation to remove it, were now the Japanese soldier's war wound.
    • Deborah's identity as a captured soldier gave her a feeling of self-righteousness and martyrdom. The gods of Yr told her she was both captive and victim, queen and slave. She took comfort in these identities.
    • Deborah then explains the role of Yr's Censor to Dr. Fried. The Censor at first was in the Midworld, the boundary land between Earth and Yr, and his role was to keep Yri secrets in Yr and out of Earth. Over time, he became a tyrant and started to control everything Deborah said both in Yr and on Earth.
    • After Deborah leaves the session, Dr. Fried actually takes a little time for herself and listens to classical music.
    • Back at D ward, Deborah can feel the punishment brewing in Yr, and she asks a nurse to help her.
    • While Deborah waits for a cold-sheet pack to be prepared for her, the Censor in Yr tells her that being at the hospital was all part of Yr's plan to set her up—to let her trust an Earth doctor and give away her secrets. Then Yr would show her how Earth really is just full of pain and betrayal.
    • Deborah is in the pack for hours and starts to feel a lot of pain and lack of circulation. She starts to whimper.
    • Sylvia, who is usually mute, is in the pack next to her and starts talking to her.
    • Deborah, at Sylvia's prompting, tries yelling to get the attention of an attendant.
    • An attendant finally comes, but it takes what seems like hours.
    • Later, in a session with Dr. Fried, Deborah remembers what Yr told her, and she says she feels like Dr. Fried will betray her. She almost eggs it on by accusing Dr. Fried of being part of a great deception that involves breaking her like the broken flowerpot she saw in her dream years ago.
    • Dr. Fried tries to assure Deborah that she will not betray her trust, that she is not like the doctor who lied to her at the hospital when she was five.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried how she was in a cold-sheet pack for hours and called for help and no one came.
    • Dr. Fried listens to her with patience and then promises to keep helping her without betraying her trust.
    • When Deborah asks her to prove it, Dr. Fried responds that she can prove it, but only with time.
  • Chapter 17

    • Doris Rivera is readmitted to D ward and inspires mixed feelings in Deborah. She feels joy, anger, pity, and even envy.
    • Doris was a symbol of hope that life outside the mental hospital was possible. But her coming back means the world can break you again and again.
    • Yr's gods tell Deborah that she is just like Doris, and that her quest to be a part of the normal world will be just as futile.
    • Deborah waits outside Doris's door and asks her why she came back. Doris answers that it's none of her business.
    • Finally, an attendant makes Deborah move away from Doris's door.
    • Later that day, Deborah hurts her ankle while playing catch with a fellow patient's shoe.
    • Deborah is escorted by two uniformed students to another hospital for physical injuries to get her ankle X-rayed.
    • Deborah sees the cautious and scared way the emergency room staff looks at her. She realizes the scrutiny and prejudice Doris faced—and that she herself will face.
    • Deborah is relieved to get back to D ward.
    • Deborah looks at herself in a mirror, and in the Yri language she says "I love you" to herself.
    • In a session with Dr. Fried, Deborah talks about the prejudice at the emergency room once they knew she was a mental patient.
    • Dr. Fried assures Deborah it used to be worse before the World Wars, so it will continue to get better little by little.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried that she still feels poisonous and unworthy. She relays a story from summer camp that proves her unworthiness.
    • Deborah befriended a girl named Eugenia at camp. They were both social misfits, so the friendship made Deborah feel less lonely, but also more awful about herself.
    • One day at the camp showers, Eugenia called Deborah to her. Eugenia was standing in the shower stall beating herself with a leather belt. She handed the belt to Deborah and asked her to beat her with it. Eugenia felt she didn't have to hide that part of herself from Deborah.
    • After that incident, Deborah never spoke to Eugenia again. She didn't want to share in someone else's poison, which seemed even more powerful than her own. Or maybe just being around Deborah made Eugenia poisonous and crazy.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried that she believes her sister Suzy will go insane just from being around her.
    • Dr. Fried says that it must have been hard for Deborah all those years to know something was wrong with her but to have her parents tell her she was fine and deny her sickness. Dr. Fried observes: "Small wonder that mental patients have so low a tolerance for lies" (17.90).
    • Dr. Fried also says their work together going to break down the power of the Yri gods and send them away.
    • Inwardly, Deborah feels very scared about living without Yr.
    • Back in the ward, Deborah starts asking other patients if they can read her thoughts. She's wondering if the mentally ill have some kind of special powers that sane people don't.
  • Chapter 18

    • Deborah has now been in the mental hospital for a year and a half.
    • Suzy graduates from grammar school. Jacob wants to keep his focus on the healthy daughter who is right in front of him, but he thinks about Deborah, and about why she can't be there to share the day. To him, there seems to be been no improvement in her condition. He even whispers to Esther during the graduation ceremony that Deborah should come home for a little while.
    • Esther and Jacob take Suzy to a nice restaurant after the ceremony to celebrate, but Deborah's presence is felt even though she's not there with them.
    • Back in D ward, the patients are annoyed that spring is beautiful and they are still stuck in their crazy world.
    • The patients get a little stir-crazy, and four new students who are young and beautiful make the patients feel their own perceived ugliness and sickness even more deeply.
    • The pretty students make Deborah feel crazier and more self-conscious about her mental illness.
    • She hears them talking meanly about Carla, who is going to be returned back to D ward from B ward, and Deborah realizes how much she cares for Carla and feels that she's "good to the bone" (18.34).
    • Deborah fills Carla in on all the ward's happenings, and on how Doris Rivera is back.
    • Deborah talks to Lactamaeon in Yr because she's worried she will poison Carla. Lactamaeon doesn't comfort her but says that sometimes people she cares about are punished to indirectly punish her.
    • Deborah watches Carla crying. Deborah feels she is unworthy of friendship, and the Yri gods tell her that she will be Carla's murderer.
    • In Yr, Deborah gets the new nickname "God-Bone-Thing" because she feels she is being sacrificed to God by the world. She's just a bone that the world is playing with.
    • In a session with Dr. Fried, Deborah acts out a dramatic scene in which she's dying. Dr. Fried says this is just a sign that Deborah is an adolescent girl who loves drama. Dr. Fried feels it's a sign that Deborah really is of Earth.
    • Dr. Fried then shares some personal information about an object on her desk—a piece of agate that was a gift from her dad. She breaks off a flower from a plant in her office and gives it to Deborah, saying that she trusts her with her memories, as Deborah has trusted her.
    • Dr. Fried then announces that she will be going on vacation for two and half months, but she'll leave Deborah in the hands of another doctor to talk to while she's gone.
    • In the next few sessions, Dr. Fried tries to prepare Deborah emotionally so she won't feel she has abandoned or rejected her while she's on vacation.
    • Deborah says she will talk to the other doctor and "comply" (18.87).
  • Chapter 19

    • Before Dr. Fried leaves to go on vacation, Deborah works hard in therapy, trying to fix herself before the doctor goes.
    • Deborah gets a transfer down to B ward.
    • Deborah is caught between worlds. She wants to get better, but she still believes that Dr. Fried will betray her and never return. The gods of Yr told her she was being set up to be hurt, and Deborah believes them.
    • To protect herself emotionally, Deborah tries to forget about Dr. Fried.
    • Deborah meets with Dr. Royson. She tries to be loyal to the promise she made to Dr. Fried to give this new doctor a chance, even though Yri voices try to remind her that the doctor "is dead" (19.22).
    • Dr. Royson doesn't make much progress with Deborah. He is obsessed with the language of Yr and with trying to convince her that she just made Yr up. This seems more important to Dr. Royson than digging into Deborah's emotions, and it frustrates her.
    • Dr. Royson is all reason and logic, where Dr. Fried was honesty and compassion. To Deborah, it feels like he's pulling teeth to get answers out of her, and because he reminds her of the evil sound of a rattlesnake, she names him "Snake tooth."
    • Idat, a goddess of Yr, comes to Deborah and talks to her about death and life. Idat tells Deborah to hurt herself in order to cope with the contradictions in her life. Then she'll be in control of the pain and how it comes, and somehow that will be a validation of life.
    • Deborah acts on this destructive idea. She starts burning herself with cigarettes to try to put out the fire of the volcano that she feels about to erupt inside of her.
    • The self-harm of burning doesn't work, however, and Deborah feels more explosive inside than ever, more separate from the "real" world.
    • The burning causes Deborah to get transferred back to D ward.
    • Dr. Halle, one of the resident doctors, cleans Deborah's burn wounds so gently and thoroughly that she wants to give him a gift. After much discussion in Yr with the gods, Deborah decides to give Dr. Halle the gift of knowing that because he didn't touch her for very long, he won't die—she is still convinced she's poisonous to other people.
    • When Deborah tells Dr. Halle that she doesn't see things properly (she's been seeing the "real" world in shades of gray for a long time), her vision then goes red, and Yr's Collect punishes her immediately.
    • Deborah regains consciousness in a cold-sheet pack. A new doctor is checking on her. He's kind and a little clumsy with the key in the lock of the room as he leaves. Deborah likes him because of it.
    • When Deborah is back in the ward, she talks with another patient named Mary about what a fit she was having before she went into the pack. Deborah wonders how she ever came out of it.
    • Mary explains that those kinds of fits can't last forever. The body and mind won't allow it.
    • Deborah seems relieved to know that there are boundaries to the darker fits of mental illness. She's comforted by Mary's insight and the idea that even "poisonous" people can reach down deep for enough courage to help each other.
    • That same night, however, Deborah feels the urge to burn herself again.
  • Chapter 20

    • Deborah continues to burn her arm, but it doesn't make the feeling of a burning volcano inside of her go away—it just releases a little of the pressure for a while.
    • Deborah steals matches and cigarettes from careless student nurses and attendants.
    • After a few days of Deborah burning herself severely, her wounds are discovered when the nice new doctor comes and she can't lie to him. She's almost upset that he doesn't see what she's done, that he's "letting her die" (20.6).
    • Deborah blurts out to the doctor that she's burned herself some more. The Collect starts making fun of her immediately.
    • Rules in D ward become stricter after it's discovered that Deborah was able to steal matches and cigarettes.
    • Deborah is still able to steal a few matches and cigarettes, but the burning doesn't seem to help anymore. In fact, it seems to be making the rules of Yr turn upside down, and she's getting punished by Yri gods more frequently and still feels like she's going to explode.
    • Dr. Fried comes back from vacation, and Deborah struggles because she doesn't want her to know how she's been harming herself. Deborah also doesn't want to show Dr. Fried that she cares what she thinks of her.
    • Deborah feels happy to see Dr. Fried, and this scares her. Deborah even wishes that she could go into the Pit, but her mind stays with Dr. Fried in the present, grounded in reality.
    • Dr. Fried thinks that Deborah burned herself to show her anger about her leaving.
    • Deborah protests and says she tried with Dr. Royson, but it didn't work. And then she forgot that Dr. Fried would come back.
    • Deborah also tells Dr. Fried that she feels like she's going to explode and can't tell if she's alive or not. She still feels poisonous, and she hates the idea of being alive as much as she hates the idea of being dead. She's having a major crisis.
    • Dr. Fried reassures Deborah that being able to feel all of these intense things shows she has the capacity to love and feel compassion.
    • Miss Coral offers to read The Importance of Being Earnest with Deborah, and soon other members of the ward are acting it out with them and reading different parts.
    • Esther comes to visit Dr. Fried again after reading the report about Deborah burning her arm.
    • Esther is very upset about it, despite Dr. Fried assuring her that Deborah's sickness is responding to treatment, and the burns are just a symptom.
    • Esther asks if Deborah will ever be "normal."
    • Dr. Fried responds that there is a good chance Deborah can be "mentally healthy and strong" (20.62). She also says that she only works with patients she feels she can help. She doesn't feel Deborah's case is hopeless at all.
    • Dr. Fried knows that Esther can now be a rock for her family and get them all behind Deborah—that is, she can get them all to believe that Deborah can get better. Esther has outgrown living in her dad's shadow, and she's outgrown the need to be overprotective of Deborah.
    • Back in the ward, student nurses tend to Deborah's burn wounds.
    • Deborah watches as Helene hits Sylvia, and she gets angry when Sylvia doesn't even respond to the blows.
    • Deborah recalls how Helene attacked her almost two years earlier after showing her some pictures of family and friends. It was like she had to punish Deborah for witnessing a moment of vulnerability. Deborah also remembers how such a fuss was made over Helene, while Deborah just stood there feeling humiliated—just as Sylvia is now.
    • Deborah wants to reach out to Sylvia but can't bring herself to act, and she's ashamed of herself.
    • Later, in therapy with Fried, Deborah still insists she isn't human.
    • Dr. Fried still thinks Deborah burned herself to show anger that she left for vacation.
    • Deborah disagrees. She looks around Dr. Fried's office and feels so separate from everything. She thinks that separateness is more painful than any burning.
    • At the end of the session, Deborah lets Dr. Fried know she won't steal more cigarettes or matches, and she pulls some from her sleeve that she'd taken from Dr. Fried's table.
  • Chapter 21

    • Despite some heavy medications, solitude, and therapy, Deborah still has an enormous meltdown that feels like the eruption of the volcano of her inner self. She is alone in the bathroom when the darkness of Yr descends, and she starts beating her head against the tiles of the floor until she sees red.
    • Deborah writes Yri words all over the bathroom in her own blood. She can't speak English to communicate with the attendants or nurses when they come, just Yri words that are full of hate.
    • Mrs. Forbes, a compassionate nurse, figures out the Yri word for anger that Deborah keeps repeating. Mrs. Forbes takes her to seclusion and then to a cold-sheet pack.
    • Alone in the pack, Deborah still sees herself as an enemy and fears letting go of Yr. After all, Yr defined her in all her younger years of confusion. She feels like she'll always be dying but not actually dead.
    • During a therapy session with Dr. Fried, Deborah hallucinates that the walls are bleeding and that a tumor is lodged in the ceiling.
    • Deborah can't speak except to say, "Yri… in the world…collision" (21.21).
    • Dr. Fried talks Deborah through this collision. She helps Deborah see that before she was angry at her for going away, she trusted her with her secrets and showed great potential for health. The doctor also commends Deborah for anticipating the collision and getting herself in D ward—that way she could fall apart when a nurse she could trust was on duty. Dr. Fried sees all of these things as signs that Deborah is smart and trying to take care of herself.
    • After the talk with the doctor, Deborah isn't scared anymore.
    • Dr. Fried explains that part of Deborah's fear is about having another eruption and not being able to stop it.
    • When Deborah returns to D ward, Lee Miller tells her that Miss Coral threw a bed at Mrs. Forbes with such force that the nurse is in another hospital for physical injuries with bruises and a broken arm.
    • Deborah decides after this incident that Lee, like Carla, is her friend, but she doesn't use the actual word "friend"—it's still too scary.
    • Deborah listens in on the nurses to see if she hears news of how Mrs. Forbes is doing. She also wants to know why Miss Coral would want to hurt such a sweet nurse.
    • Deborah hears that the nurses will go visit Mrs. Forbes, but then she hears them talking about her, her epic meltdown, the blood on the walls, and her anger.
    • Deborah knows that her ward-mates won't talk about Mrs. Forbes and Miss Coral. It's like a code of honor among the patients not to question these things.
    • Deborah feels confused about it all. She expresses that the only clarity she has is with Dr. Fried, so at least she still trusts her therapist.
    • In the next session, however, Deborah announces that she is quitting her fight against her crazy and will instead just exist in the hospital and be docile and not have any more rages.
    • Dr. Fried challenges Deborah on that point and doesn't pity her. She tells Deborah it will be hard, and she will be tested in the real world. That's a chance she'll have to take. Dr. Fried then asks her if she is getting sicker, and Deborah says no, she's not.
    • Later, at a meeting, the ward staff discusses Deborah's status and remark about how she's not burning herself as much. A newer staff member questions whether the mentally ill have morals, and Dr. Fried says that of course they do. She then relays how one of her former patients gave her a knife he had made in secret in order to take his own life if his illness ever got to be too difficult to bear.
    • Dr. Halle and Dr. Royson discuss Dr. Fried after she leaves the meeting. They both comment on how she is brilliant.
  • Chapter 22

    • Deborah notices that the staff members are being nicer to her. One new attendant, named Quentin Dobshansky, reminds Deborah of McPherson.
    • The volcano continues to erupt violently as Deborah works on breaking down her defenses to the outside world. These continual eruptions leave in her two cold-sheet packs a day sometimes, and sometimes they send her running down hallways into doors.
    • Despite the eruptions, Deborah's also becoming more authentic with people in the ward, including the staff members. Dr. Fried points this out to her: "[W]hen this volcano of yours broke, something else broke, too: your stoniness of expression. One sees you now reacting and living by looking at your face" (22.10).
    • Deborah responds that before, her face and insides never matched up, and it made others misunderstand her. She never understood her own facial expressions, and they still frighten her.
    • It's winter now, and Deborah notices that she feels both physical and psychological cold. Deborah comments to an attendant that she's lucky she doesn't have to deal with the cold that Deborah herself deals with, which is the kind of cold that coats can't help. The attendant responds, "Don't you believe it." The attendant launches into a description of her own life and talks about how hard it is to raise kids and do the kind of difficult work she does taking care of patients in the ward.
    • Instead of taking it personally, as she would have in the past, Deborah sees that the woman is venting and sharing.
    • Deborah looks out the ward window at a grassy area on the hospital grounds that she calls "The Preserve." She notices that she hears nothing in the ward or in Yr.
    • Then Deborah starts to see colors in the world slowly, where before she was seeing only gray. With the colors, Deborah also realizes that she's starting to really feel alive, and it makes her happy.
    • Deborah then worries that this good feeling might just be part of "The Game" she feels the world plays with her—making her feel something good only to take it away and watch her suffer. She talks to the gods of Yr about it. They tell her the good feeling might be gone by morning. Deborah wonders if the good feeling is just another symptom of her sickness.
    • The next morning, Deborah asks for permission to walk down to her session with Dr. Fried by herself, without an escort.
    • At the session, Deborah tells Dr. Fried about being able to see colors and feel a sense of hope.
    • Deborah realizes that she invented herself as a Japanese enemy because of the self-hatred she felt—mostly because of the incidents at the anti-Semitic summer camp. She also admits that she played the martyr role and glorified her own anger about it. She realizes she adopted that persona because it so closely matched her grandfather's personality. She learned it from him.
    • Dr. Fried comforts Deborah by saying that these realizations hurt, but the symptoms she displayed over the years did meet her needs, in a way. Squashing those symptoms chips away at the false world Deborah built to protect herself from the hurts of the real world. There will be some pain as Deborah lets go of her symptoms.
    • Back in the ward, Dr. Venner, a ward doctor Deborah doesn't like because he always seems to look off into the distance, roughly treats her burn wounds while Quentin assists. Deborah even makes a joke about her fake tumor making up for her missing skin. Quentin laughs, but Dr. Venner tells them to be quiet.
    • A few days later, the newer doctor Deborah likes is back and looks at the wounds. Deborah makes a comment on how rough Dr. Venner was, and the new doctor looks very concerned for a moment.
    • When the new doctor says he hopes his own dressing of her wounds didn't hurt too much, Deborah smiles and says, "Someday, maybe it will" (22.78).
  • Chapter 23

    • Deborah starts to see more light and color in the world, and she starts to make eye contact with people.
    • Deborah also starts to tire of D ward and find it limiting, so she asks for the privilege of walking the grounds more often—which she is granted.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried that she's starting to feel as if she might be part of the real world, after all.
    • Deborah is transferred back to B ward. Carla is there, and Deborah tells her she's happy to see her and be together.
    • Carla confides in Deborah that she went out into the world outside of the hospital, and it was difficult and lonely. Carla guesses she'll probably try again when she's ready.
    • Deborah and Carla go together to the craft shop in B ward, and Deborah sees a drawing pad she likes.
    • Then Deborah sees Miss Coral waving at her from a window up in D ward, and they communicate back and forth using hand signals. Miss Coral relays that she was in a fight. Deborah relays that she now feels free.
    • In the craft shop, one of the workers recognizes Deborah from D ward and says it out loud. Deborah then feels the stares and judgment from the other workers. Carla notices the looks and says that now Deborah is in B ward.
    • Deborah asks Carla if those are the kinds of looks people give mental patients in the outside world.
    • Carla explains that yes, it happens sometimes. You have to show "sanity papers" when you go to get a job, and you're nervous because everyone knows you were sick. It makes it hard to make friends. The doctors tell you to be less anxious about it, but it's hard.
    • Deborah tells Carla that Helene was nice to her when she left D ward and even asked why it couldn't be her leaving D ward instead. Deborah encouraged Helene by saying, "Why not?" Helene said "maybe" but then started cursing. But Deborah realized Helene was cursing her feelings of doubt, not her.
    • In a session with Dr. Fried, Deborah admits to not trusting non-Jews. She's even pretended these people were Jewish in her head to allow herself to get close to them. But being around patients in the hospital makes Deborah realize that insanity breaches the boundaries of religion. These boundaries don't matter to her now.
    • Dr. Fried asks Deborah to revisit the memory of trying to throw her sister Suzy out of the window when Suzy was an infant. Dr. Fried analyzes the details of Deborah's story and determines that no five-year-old could lift a baby out of a high bassinet, carry her to a window, open the window at the same time, and then dangle a baby out of it.
    • Deborah concedes, after all this time, that maybe the memory is false. What she remembers clearly is hating Suzy and thinking about killing her. Esther walked in at that moment and Deborah felt so guilty about her thoughts that she must have falsely remembered acting on them.
    • Deborah also remembers feeling happy when she was five years old—before she felt guilt about wanting to hurt Suzy. Remembering happiness is proof to her that she can be happy and alive again.
    • Idat calls from Yr, and Deborah tells her that Earth is a good place. Idat tells Deborah that she'll keep a female form to give Deborah something to model herself on. Deborah thinks this is silly, since Idat is impossibly beautiful and cries diamonds for tears.
    • At dinner, Carla looks nervous and drops her coffee cup with shaking hands. Deborah holds Carla's hands in comfort. She thinks how she'd like to thank Sylvia and McPherson for their kindnesses.
    • Then Deborah realizes that Carla looks better after she comforted her. Deborah feels good about herself and, for the first time, thinks that she might be a good person.
  • Chapter 24

    • This short chapter is about a dream Deborah has.
    • In the dream it's winter.
    • A giant fisted hand appears out of the sky and then opens. In its palm are three pieces of coal.
    • The fist closes again with such pressure that there's white light from the heat of it.
    • Deborah feels like she's like the coal being pressed and shouts out, "Stop it!"
    • The fist opens, and there are three diamonds.
    • A voice says, "Deborah, this will be you."
  • Chapter 25

    • On New Year's Day, Deborah goes home for a five-day visit.
    • All of Deborah's relatives are there to greet her, and Esther has prepared them so they know she might be—and look—a little weird. They all dote on Deborah, but she can tell that it's overkill and motivated by pity and fear.
    • Deborah does her best to cope with all of the attention, but it's exhausting. She still feels the space between her and the mentally healthy.
    • Jacob keeps contrasting the comforts of home with "That Place"—which is the not-so-subtle way he refers to the mental hospital.
    • Suzy looks at Deborah and sees a homely, desperate-looking girl who is emotionally younger than she herself is—even though Deborah is five years older. Suzy resents that Deborah isn't the big sister of her dreams, who has boyfriends and goes to proms and college football games. She resents that her family's happiness relies on Deborah's getting better. She resents that she feels she should cancel the plans she had with her friend that day, even though she'd made those plans before she knew Deborah was coming home.
    • Suzy does cancel her plans—and resents doing it—but lies to Deborah and tells her she wanted to cancel to be with her sister.
    • Deborah, who despises lies, calls Suzy out, which makes Suzy storm out of the room.
    • All the coddling from her family makes Deborah feel like a burden. She feels that her family is normal and healthy and can do things without much effort that for her require massive amounts of energy.
    • At bedtime, Jacob contrasts the hospital with home again and tells Deborah she doesn't have to go back to the hospital with all its "screaming women" (25.21).
    • Jacob's comment makes Deborah feel her nonexistent tumor again and respond by telling her father that the woman he heard screaming at the hospital was probably Lucy, a patient who gets off on scaring the visitors by doing a Tarzan impression.
    • Jacob is taken aback because he never thought of the scream he heard as belonging to a person.
    • Alone in her dark room, Deborah sees her gods from Yr.
    • Lactamaeon and Anterrabae try to convince Deborah that they never meant to be cruel. They only wanted to protect her when she was hopeless.
    • Deborah wonders if she'll be able to trade Yr for the world that she's still learning to love. She starts thinking about how Yr used to be.
    • Deborah remembers how the Censor told her he would protect her as she traveled between Earth and Yr. When she was younger this worked: she felt like she was flying in Yr, and she felt happy. But then things grew dark, and the Censor imposed lots of rules, punishment, and control.
    • As she drifts off to sleep, Deborah weighs the "maybe" of this world against holding on to Yr.
    • Different groups of family members come over the next few days to visit Deborah. The Blaus have grouped these people according to how much they know about Deborah's illness. It's more levels of deception, which Deborah hates.
    • Deborah notices that Suzy's mood has gone steadily downhill since she came home. Even though she knows now that it's not logical, Deborah still thinks about how she could be poisoning Suzy.
    • After Deborah goes to bed, Suzy breaks down and has it out with her parents. She hates how they're doting on Deborah and praising her for every little thing she does, no matter how small.
    • Jacob tells Esther and Suzy that they're shouting so loud they'll "wake the dead." They all realize that "the dead" is a scarily appropriate reference to Deborah.
    • Suzy, Esther, and Jacob then all go back to bed feeling guilty.
  • Chapter 26

    • Months go by, and it's spring again at the hospital. It's Deborah's third year there.
    • Deborah digs into art and uses all the media available to her.
    • A new patient named Carmen arrives, and it's clear that her rich father has rigid expectations that Carmen isn't meeting.
    • Carla and Deborah have a conversation about what kind of hospital they would create. Carla opts for no bars on the windows. Deborah feels that bars on the windows can make you feel safe to go completely crazy, so that you can fight the sickness fully, honestly, and safely.
    • While they talk, Carla and Deborah wander the hospital grounds far beyond where they both have permission to go. They both feel good breaking this rule. It's Sunday and raining. They let it wash over them, and they don't even care that they're cold.
    • Once it's dark, Deborah and Carla go back to the hospital, where they're seen by two attendants who ask them if they have night privileges to be out and about. Carla says no.
    • Rather than go back into the ward escorted by the attendants, Carla and Deborah run away from the hospital. They want to go back on their own terms. They hear the alarm sound, but they don't care. They run until they're out of breath and laughing. They feel great.
    • After a while, Deborah and Carla are soaked and muddy. Finally, after midnight, they're ready to go back. The attendants on duty separate them and put them in seclusion.
    • The next morning, the girls are brought separately in front of Dr. Halle. Then he talks to them together. He tells them he is actually proud of them for having a fun adventure together and then coming back. He says that even though they broke eight hospital rules, they had a shared fun experience of friendship. Dr. Halle doesn't even revoke any of their privileges.
    • Deborah and Carla go to find Carmen and tell her that they're not going be punished, but they discover that Carmen's father came to collect her and take her home for being disagreeable.
    • Deborah realizes then that her own parents had left her at the hospital to have the freedom to go crazy and then find her way out of it safely. She's grateful to them.
  • Chapter 27

    • Helene comes to B ward.
    • Carla and Deborah are happy for Helene and take her to the craft shop. Deborah is very motivated to accompany Helene there because she remembers how some of the staff at the craft shop judge those who come from D ward, and she doesn't want Helene to face that alone.
    • Carla finds a newspaper article about the former patient Carmen and brings it to Deborah.
    • Carmen shot herself in the head.
    • The news of Carmen's death upsets Deborah, because although she didn't know the patient long, she could see that Carmen had the potential to get better if she'd been left at the hospital for treatment.
    • Carla disagrees, but Deborah makes an argument that if your sickness has a hard hurt that caused it, you can get to the root of it and work through it. If you can't feel anything, and you're cold and dead inside, then maybe you can't be helped. Deborah argues that Carmen could have got to the root of her hard hurt.
    • Carla tells Deborah she's going to try to go out into the world again.
    • Deborah panics at the thought of being without her friend, but instead of retreating into Yr and getting angry about being abandoned, she acknowledges her emotions and her own fear of soon being ready to go out into the world herself.
    • Deborah gets a new roommate, and they get along.
    • Deborah continues to have a hunger for Earth, and she listens to the student nurses. She talks with them and ask them questions about their lives.
    • Deborah walks into town and observes everything she can.
    • Deborah joins two church choirs. She realizes that they know she is from the mental hospital, but she is trying to belong to groups. She deals with them ignoring her and tries to belong, anyway.
    • Deborah requests to leave the hospital.
    • When Deborah tells her new roommate about leaving, she recognizes the panic in her roommate's eyes. It's the same she must have shown to Carla.
    • A social worker from the mental hospital helps place Deborah in a rented room. Deborah's new landlady is Mrs. King. Mrs. King doesn't have the same prejudices against the mentally ill that Deborah has noticed in others. Deborah goes back to the hospital for dinners and therapy sessions.
    • In a therapy session with Dr. Fried, Deborah remembers when she was much younger, before she got sick. She also remembers a friend she had who is now in college and who wrote to her when they were in high school. Deborah had closed herself off so much that she didn't want to allow these connections.
    • Dr. Fried and Deborah discuss Yr. Dr. Fried gets Deborah to see that all the beauty in Yr is really made up of the beautiful parts of Deborah, and the Collect and the other negative parts of Yr are the criticisms of Deborah's own mind.
    • Carla and Deborah start to see each other in the outside world when Carla isn't busy with her new job as a lab technician. They still share a special closeness—until Deborah shows Carla her artwork.
    • Deborah assumes Carla gets distant when she mentions her art because her art documents her journey through the sickness. She decides to just drop the subject and focus on their friendship and other topics.
    • Deborah has a dream in which a voice shows her a bone buried deep in the snow. The voice tells her it's Carla's creativity buried deep inside of her.
    • When Deborah sees Carla the next day, she tells her about the dream, and it makes Carla cry. Carla admits that art was something she always wanted to try but was afraid to.
    • In therapy with Dr. Fried, Deborah discusses what happened with Carla, and Dr. Fried points out that Deborah's talent is real: she was able to access it and use it even when she was very sick. Carla was probably jealous for not having that same kind of outlet.
    • The session leaves Deborah hopeful that she can be a productive artist and a good friend. She also admits that she might not be poisonous.
  • Chapter 28

    • Deborah spends the next couple of months drawing and using her art as a kind of therapy.
    • Deborah continues to sing in church choirs and wonders to herself one Sunday if people thank God for their mental health.
    • Deborah starts to want to connect with people more, and she even wants to get a job. But she's told she'll have to get a high school diploma first.
    • Deborah is now nineteen, and the thought of going back to high school is frightening to her. She remembers how broken she felt when she was in high school, and she doesn't think she can handle that atmosphere and all its social pressures.
    • Deborah takes a walk to look at the high school in the town. Just looking at it makes her panic and think of all the darker parts of Yr.
    • The social worker at the hospital suggests Deborah make a list of her skills and of what kinds of jobs line up with those skills. As she makes the list, Deborah is scared of her lack of choices in the world. She sees the future as a long hallway full of closed doors.
    • The social worker then proposes another alternative to Deborah: the GED exam.
    • Deborah is so relieved that she has another choice that she turns white and feels like she has the bends from the change in pressure between worlds—she's still making transitions between Yr and Earth.
    • Yr starts fading, and Deborah can't understand Yri language as clearly as she did before. The transitions between worlds—not to mention the relief Deborah feels at knowing she could take a test instead of attending high school—causes a kind of panic attack that lands her in back D ward in a cold-sheet pack.
    • Deborah understands now why Carla and Doris Rivera were exhausted from trying to live in the world. It's hard to transition.
    • Quentin Dobshansky attends to Deborah in the pack, and she tells him to relax and not pretend with his face.
    • When Quentin relaxes, Deborah can tell he's disappointed. He admits that he is indeed disappointed. He wants to see her be successful in the outside world.
    • Quentin feels anxious because he's being so open and honest and friendly with a patient, but he feels something for her, even empathizes with her, because he's been made fun of, too.
    • Deborah realizes she has a crush on Quentin. She feels she's ugly, and it's embarrassing to her to have Quentin see her in the pack.
    • Lactamaeon calls to Deborah and tells her she should just "re-die" and have everything go back to the way it was with her in Yr.
    • Deborah answers that she doesn't know how to do that anymore.
    • Deborah tries to burn herself again to release the pressure, but this time it hurts, and she can't do it.
    • Deborah cries out to all the gods of all the worlds, including Earth and Yr, that she is beginning to feel connected to Earth.
    • Deborah tells Dr. Fried that she felt pain when trying to burn herself.
    • Deborah also tells Dr. Fried that she still isn't completely ready to stop going between Yr and Earth, although she does know that she sides with the world.
    • While she's still talking with Dr. Fried, Deborah retreats for a few moments into Yr, and Anterrabae tries to convince her that she will never be able to share as deeply with anyone as she did with the gods of Yr.
    • Deborah decides to go back into the world again soon, when she feels ready.
  • Chapter 29

    • Deborah rides a bus two hours each way between the hospital and a tutorial school where she takes classes to prepare for the GED.
    • Deborah takes pride in the effort it's taking her to get that certificate, because it will mean more choices for her in the world.
    • Deborah notices how the attendants at the hospital treat her with more kindness and respect now. They see her early in the morning with her books getting ready to go out to her classes, and they greet her. She feels less judged now that she's a student.
    • Deborah moves back into Mrs. King's rooming house and goes to the hospital just for dinner and therapy sessions with Dr. Fried.
    • One day, after therapy, Deborah notices a fight between a group of attendants and Miss Coral. Deborah says hello to Miss Coral, and it snaps Miss Coral out of the fighting. Miss Coral even asks Deborah about Carla.
    • When Deborah realizes her bus will be leaving, she says goodbye to Miss Coral, who then resumes the fighting with the attendants.
    • On the bus, Deborah thinks about the D ward women and wonders how many of them will end up succeeding outside the hospital.
    • Deborah spent three years in the hospital, and she realizes that three-quarters of the people who left were sent to other hospitals. She wonders again how many will achieve what she's trying to achieve.
    • The real moments of doubt about whether she will ever fit in overwhelm Deborah on the bus rides home in the afternoon.
    • There are lots of high school and college girls on the bus. Deborah watches these girls and feels the insecurities of adolescence. She knows that their insular cliques look better than they actually are, but she still finds herself feeling like a jealous outcast.
    • In these moments of weakness, Idat, a goddess from Yr, appears to Deborah. But also in Yr are new images of the teachers who are preparing her for the GED. These teachers tell Deborah that they are not with the Collect. They defend Deborah's work ethic and intellect to Idat.
    • The Collect appear and tell Deborah they're going to dance. The teachers remind Deborah that whether she's sick or well she is part of the dance, part of the world.
    • The teachers and the Collect write these old Yri words on a piece of paper: "You are not of them." Then they tear up the paper, and the pieces scatter in the wind.
    • At choir practice, Deborah asks the girl who stands next to her if she wants to go out for a soda, and the girl acts nervous and turns pale in the face. This hurts Deborah's feelings, but she tries to soldier on.
    • Deborah talks about the incident with Dr. Fried, who questions whether Deborah's attitude is preventing her from making friendships in the world outside the hospital.
    • Deborah insists that people who aren't sick like her can't truly see her, but then she does say that there have been moments where they have trusted her and shown signs of friendship. Mrs. King trusted Deborah to babysit her two-month-old granddaughter for an hour and a half.
    • Dr. Fried asks Deborah if she loves her parents. Deborah says she does, and then she lists others she loves, including Dr. Fried.
    • Deborah then asks if she has to get rid of all of Yr.
    • Dr. Fried suggests that Deborah keep Yr in a way for now by sharing it through her art. Deborah agrees.
    • Deborah takes the GED and waits for the results. She passes with a score high enough to be considered for entrance into college if she wants.
    • Esther is overjoyed with the news when Deborah calls her to tell her.
    • Deborah celebrates her scores by walking around the high school grounds in town. She watches the healthy kids running around the school and thinks about how hard she had to work for something that must have come so much more easily to most of them.
    • Deborah sees a high school couple holding hands and nuzzling, and she gets jealous. She worries that she'll never have that with anyone. The gods of Yr tell her the same thing, and then they start to laugh at her.
    • Deborah starts walking back to town.
    • As Anterrabae flies past Deborah with his characteristic flames about him, Deborah sees another figure right next to him that she recognizes: it's an image of Satan that she remembers from an illustrated edition of Paradise Lost her grandfather had.
    • Deborah then realizes that Anterrabae was modeled on this figure. She realizes that even Yr was borrowed.
    • Even as Deborah has this realization, the Collect roars at her and screams that all of her work was for nothing. She has a GED, but she'll be alone and unloved forever.
    • Deborah has ventured all the way to the hospital now, and she feels the Pit waiting for her.
    • When Deborah rises from the Pit, she's in restraints, with Quentin checking in on her. He lets her know that Mrs. King brought Deborah some books and her clothes, and Deborah tells him Mrs. King is a good person.
    • Back in the ward, Mary throws a tray at Deborah's head.
    • Deborah realizes she is making the others struggle with "Maybe"—the hope of their own recovery, and the threat of difficult relapses.
    • Deborah realizes she is at a crossroads. This epic meltdown over realizing Yr was made up of only her imagination and borrowed images? It's about Deborah finally pledging allegiance to the world. Having the meltdown and getting herself to the hospital was her way of doing this hard last process in a safe place.
    • Deborah looks through her schoolbooks while Anterrabae tries one last time to convince her she is not of Earth. He reminds her of her hard childhood, and of Hitler, and of the lawlessness of the world.
    • Deborah tells Anterrabae calmly that she is of Earth, and that she is going to side with Earth with her "full weight."
    • Deborah says goodbye to Anterrabae and Yr.