Never Let Me Go Summary
We can sum this book up for you in three little sentences: Kathy is a carer. Then she becomes a donor. Then she "completes." The end.
Okay, there's a bit more to Kathy's life than that. Well, a lot more. And fair warning: this book jumps back and forth and back again in time, so it can be tough to keep it all straight. Hold on to your hats.
The book starts out in England in the 1990s. Kathy H., our narrator, is a thirty-one year old woman who spends her days as a "carer." Her job involves traveling between recovery centers and helping "donors" to recuperate after giving a "donation." She doesn't tell us what these mysterious donations are, but they don't sound like much fun.
Working as a carer gives Kathy a ton of time to reminisce about Hailsham, the place where she grew up. This job also gives her opportunities to reconnect with Ruth and Tommy, her old pals from Hailsham.
Here's the thing: Hailsham was an awesome joint and all (who doesn't love drawing classes and playing football?), but it's also filled with a fair bit of mystery and misery. The students never leave the Hailsham grounds and are kept in the dark about what's in store for them in the future. What they do know is that they are special, and that it's super duper important for them to be creative. So Hailsham students work a lot on poetry and art with the hope that Madame, a lady who lives outside Hailsham, will select their art pieces for her Gallery.
Being creative is a problem for Tommy, who just isn't that artsy. Instead, Tommy becomes a social outcast and throws a lot of tantrums. Even when he's as old as thirteen. Super awkward. But for the most part, Kathy and Tommy have a special bond and she's the only one who can really connect with him during his rough patches.
And then there's Ruth. Kathy and Ruth have a relationship that is, well, rocky, to put it nicely. They repeatedly hurt one another's feelings, and then try to find some gesture to make amends rather than talk about their problems directly. Yeah, it's a roller coaster up in here.
While at Hailsham, Kathy's most prized possession is a cassette tape with songs by Judy Bridgewater. While she's alone in her dorm room, Kathy loves listening to her favorite song, "Never Let Me Go." And when the song has the same title as the novel, you just know it has to be important. Anyway, one day Madame catches Kathy listening to this song while rocking an imaginary baby. For some reason, Madame sobs and Kathy gets freaked out. Sadly for Kathy, she soon loses this precious tape. Not to worry; it won't be gone for long. She'll eventually find it again in Norfolk.
During their teen years at Hailsham, Kathy and her friends become big daydreamers. They start to wonder about their future lives. Miss Lucy, the newest guardian, puts a stop to these daydreams pronto. She tells Kathy and her friends that none of them will become actors because they were all created to give away their vital organs one day. Yikes! That information could have been useful a little bit ago. But somehow, this news isn't all that shocking for Kathy, who feels like maybe she's known this information all along on some level. By the way, somewhere in the midst of these daydreams and revelations, Tommy and Ruth start dating. Bet you didn't see that relationship coming.
After Hailsham, Kathy and her friends are sent to live in the Cottages. The Cottages aren't as swanky as Hailsham, but Kathy and her pals have lots of downtime to watch TV and take road trips. One day, Kathy, Ruth, Tommy, and their two slightly older chums, Chrissie and Rodney, take a trip to Norfolk. They sketchily scope out a woman who works in an office building that they think might be Ruth's "possible" (the normal woman she was modeled from). What's this all about? Well it turns out that Kathy and her friends are clones. Wait, what? Yeah, Kathy decides to wait until halfway through her story to casually drop that info on us. Gee, thanks for the heads up, Kath.
So Kathy and her crew are clones, but that's not even the most unbelievable thing that's about to go down. While they're in Norfolk, Tommy and Kathy find another Judy Bridgewater cassette tape. Kathy's got her musical mojo back. And then some. After a tiff with Ruth, Kathy decides she's ready to move on from the Cottages. So she's the first of the trio to leave and start her work as a carer.
After years as a carer, Kathy decides that it might be best to see Ruth again, before it's too late. So Kathy becomes Ruth's carer, after Ruth has given her first donation (ouch!). They work to rekindle their friendship. One friendship-building task involves taking a trip with Tommy to see a stranded boat. On this road trip, Ruth makes a big confession: she kept Tommy and Kathy apart, and she's super sorry about it. To make-up for her selfishness, Ruth gives her friends Madame's address. She wants them to go to Madame and see if they can get a deferral, so that they can spend more time together before Tommy gives away any more vital organs.
Now things start to get really tragic. Ruth "completes" and Kathy becomes Tommy's carer-and-girlfriend. They visit Madame and have a chat with her and Miss Emily, their old head guardian from Hailsham. Sadly, they learn that deferrals never existed. So they just have to live the life that was set out for them: grow up, become a carer, donate, complete. Depressing? Yes. C'est la vie.
Much to our frustration, Tommy and Kathy accept their fate. When Tommy gets the order for his fourth donation, the lovebirds say goodbye to one another, and Kathy leaves without much hullabaloo. At the very end of the novel, Kathy tells us that Tommy has completed and that she has received her summons so she'll become a donor soon.
See what we mean? Totally tragic.
- Part 1 of Never Let Me Go starts off with adult Kathy H. musing about her job as a "carer." Don't know what that means yet? Thinking about changing your career goals? Not so fast. We recommend you keep reading before chucking your professional dreams in the can in favor of this cool-sounding gig.
- Kathy has been working as a carer for over eleven years. She's pretty proud of the fact that the "donors" she looks after have good recovery time after giving a "donation." She keeps them comfortable even when they're close to "completing." So far, this donor business sounds a bit too ominous for our liking.
- Since Kathy is so good at her job, she gets to enjoy some perks like picking which donors to look after in the recovery centers. This special treatment is how she ends up reconnecting with her old chums Ruth and Tommy.
- We learn that back in the day Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grew up in a place called Hailsham. Kathy is fairly vague about what kind of place this is. Is it a school? An orphanage? An idyllic spa getaway? One thing is crystal clear: all the non-Hailsham donors and carers are jealous that Kathy grew up in this mysterious place.
- In fact, despite all the driving Kathy does nowadays, she can never find her old home.
- Sometimes, Kathy thinks she sees a building or sports pavilion that reminds her of Hailsham and she becomes the world's worst driver: "If I drive past one I keep looking over to it for as long as possible, and one day I'll crash the car like that, but I keep doing it" (1.8). Seriously, keep your eyes on the road, Kathy.
- Oh, and if you think carer and donor are unfamiliar terms, Kathy also gives us some abstract references to "collection chests," "Sales," and "guardians." Um, what?
- So chatty Kathy may not be giving us a ton of concrete information just yet, but her story of hoping to find Hailsham meanders into a more detailed memory about its sports pavilion.
- The pavilion was the place where all the cool kids hung out on breaks. Kathy and her friends got to chill at the pavilion because they had Ruth, the coolest cat around.
- On one specific day at Hailsham many years ago, Kathy, Ruth, and their girl posse were hanging out at the pavilion and watching a group of boys play football (cue giggling). And by football we mean UK football (you know, soccer).
- While the boys get ready to pick teams, the girls pay attention to Tommy. Tommy thinks he's going to get picked first. So you just know that he's going to get picked last… or not at all.
- And this is exactly what happens. Tommy gets left out of the football game and the mean boys laugh at him. Tommy reacts to this rejection in the least cool way possible—by throwing a "thunderous bellowing" tantrum (1.23). Way to play it cool, Tom.
- Apparently, throwing tantrums is sort of a signature move for Tommy. So the girls think all this screaming-foot-stomping-limb-flinging-in-the-mud stuff is old hat.
- But eventually Kathy takes pity on her friend. Sadly for Tantrum Tommy, his bad day is about to get worse. When Kathy tries to comfort him, Tommy's swinging arm hits Kathy across the face. Even in this weird world of carers and donors, hitting just isn't cool.
- Kathy is forgiving because she thinks it was an accident. But Tommy's bad attitude tests even her patience and she, Ruth, and the girls leave Tommy alone on the football field.
- So we're still inside that flashback about Tommy's tantrum at the sports pavilion. It's now a few days later, and Kathy is waiting in line for a visit with the nurse.
- This seems to be a routine thing, because Kathy tells us that they had "some form of medical almost every week" (2.2). It also doesn't sound super pleasant since they call the nurse Crow Face.
- Tommy sees Kathy in line and delivers a genuine, heartfelt apology for accidentally hitting her, so that's cool. Kathy tells Tommy that all is forgiven and forgotten.
- (We also learn that Kathy and Tommy are thirteen at this point in the storyline. Kind of puts that whole tantrum thing in perspective.)
- Speaking of tantrums, Tommy can't seem to keep his cool. Some of the tantrums reach near-epic proportions (your typical student toppling desks while the other students barricade him in the classroom to save themselves kind of scenario). Kathy only sees some of these incidents herself; the rest she learns through the hallway rumor mill.
- Alongside the tantrums, all the kids are picking on Tommy with pretty nasty pranks. Here's the worst one: "the time someone cleaned a toilet with his toothbrush" (2.15). That is so gross. And get this: no one gets in trouble. Where are the so-called guardians who run this Hailsham place?
- When Kathy talks to her girlfriends about these pranks, Ruth says Tommy needs an attitude adjustment. Tommy doesn't seem to put effort into being creative and creativity is really highly valued at Hailsham.
- In fact, creativity is so important that every three months they have these Exchanges. Before an Exchange, Hailsham students submit all the creative work they've made over the past three months and the guardians give them Exchange Tokens for each item. Then, at the big exhibition, students can trade in their tokens for work done by fellow classmates.
- Ruth and Kathy reminisce about the Exchanges years later. When they have this chitchat, Ruth is at a donor center in Dover, and Kathy is her carer. She's just given her first donation.
- The two friends chat about how the Exchanges produced a kind of community among the Hailsham students. By purchasing and cherishing each others' creations, the Exchanges got students to value one other's artwork. And that's pretty cool.
- By the way, if trying to keep the order of events in this novel straight has your brain spinning, that's because Kathy likes to intermix her flashbacks. She randomly jumps between years and between stories. And then in the middle of a flashback she likes to interrupt herself to give you an explanation of the way things were done at Hailsham. Or sometimes she'll dish on her thoughts about the past now that she's older and wiser. So it can be disorienting to piece together Kathy's story…but maybe it's supposed to be. Check out "Writing Style" for some thoughts on this narrative rollercoaster.
- But back to Tommy (see what we mean about all this flashback hopping?). The adult versions of Kathy and Tommy recently talked about his troubles at Hailsham. And Kathy recounts Tommy's thoughts about how his long rough patch of tantrums started one day in art class.
- And so we venture to a specific day in a Tommy flashback where Tommy paints a childish picture of an elephant. Miss Geraldine, the nicest guardian at Hailsham, praises Tommy's work in front of the class, which makes the other students resent Tommy for his special treatment.
- After the elephant incident, teasing Tommy becomes the new favorite sport at Hailsham. And the teasing eventually leads to Tommy's tantrums. You know how it goes. Vicious cycle and all.
- But then all of a sudden the tantrums stop. And, over time, so does the teasing. Kathy is "mystified" at this newfound calm in Tommy (2.40). So one day she asks him what has changed.
- The answer: Tommy had a conversation with the newer guardian, Miss Lucy. And Miss Lucy told Tommy that it was a-okay if he didn't want to be creative.
- This bit of information makes Tommy feel loads better, but it really pushes Kathy's buttons. She thinks Tommy is lying because everyone knows that it's super important to be creative.
- So Tommy convinces Kathy to meet him down by the pond to learn the rest of the story.
- Down at the pond, Tommy spills the beans to Kathy about his conversation with Miss Lucy. She told Tommy, over and over again, that it doesn't matter if he isn't creative. It's not his fault.
- Phew! What a load off Tommy's shoulders. Now he doesn't feel as much pressure, and anytime he sees Miss Lucy he feels reassured. Sounds like a pretty good chat with a teacher.
- But Tommy also says that two weird things happened during this talk with Miss Lucy:
- (1) Miss Lucy was shaking with rage. Tommy says she wasn't angry at him. Instead, she was "furious deep inside" (3.20). So who or what was she angry at?
- (2) Miss Lucy kept saying that the students at Hailsham aren't taught enough about their future. Or about their donations.
- Tommy and Kathy don't know what to make of all this. It's all so mysterious. They wonder why Miss Lucy would go from talking about being creative to bringing up donations.
- Kathy says that she thinks this has something to do with Madame's Gallery. Madame lives outside Hailsham but visits a few times each year. She collects the students' best artwork. And then it goes to this seriously awesome Gallery.
- Or so they think. Kathy realizes that the idea of the Gallery was something she grew up with. She and the other students always talked about it, but never actually saw it. So maybe Madame's Gallery is real, or maybe it's just an urban legend Hailsham-style.
- Either way, having your artwork there is a huge honor, plus it earns you major cool points among the other students when Madame comes for a visit.
- But here's the odd thing about Madame: she never talks to the Hailsham students. And when Ruth was about eight years old, she had a theory about why: "She's scared of us" (3.57).
- So during one of Madame's visits, Ruth, Kathy, and their girl group decide to become amateur sociologists and stage an experiment. When Madame gets out of her car and walks toward the school, the girls casually flock to her so she's forced to confront them.
- Madame reacts as they expect: she stops suddenly and looks seriously freaked out.
- But something happens that the girls don't expect: "she was afraid of us in the same way someone might be afraid of spiders" (3.35). The girls don't really like feeling like spiders, and we can't blame them. Spiders are gross.
- When Kathy looks back on this incident as an adult, she realizes how important it was. As kids, they'd realized that they were different from people outside Hailsham and from their guardians. But the episode with Madame made that feeling all too real.
- Adult Kathy drops a doozie on us out of the middle of nowhere: she's not going to be a carer by the end of the year. And she's happy about "the chance to rest" (4.1).
- It's not totally clear what she means by "rest" here, but since we've only heard about two career options and the other one involves mysterious "donations," we're not sure we like the sound of it.
- Kathy says this coming change has gotten her taking all these trips down memory lane. She wants to think about the early years at Hailsham and her time with Ruth and Tommy.
- And looking back she realizes that the interest they took in Madame was actually a really big deal: "it was the start of a process that kept growing and growing over the years until it came to dominate our lives" (4.1).
- Remember how Kathy likes to take us on crazy flashback adventures intermixed with mysterious explanations? Well get ready for another one.
- Reminiscing about Madame and the Gallery reminds Kathy of her talk with Tommy by the pond. And after that talk Kathy thought about something perplexing Miss Lucy had said in class one day. And that comment in class one day had come about during a period known as the "tokens controversy."
- (In case you're wondering where this fits into the order of events, the tokens controversy happens a couple years after the Madame-spider debacle, but three years before Tommy and Kathy's pond-side chat.)
- So here's how the tokens controversy went down. Kathy and her friends are ten years old and they've started to care a lot about their "collections." Each student at Hailsham has a box where they keep the personal possessions they've picked up at the Exchanges and Sales (which Kathy still hasn't explained). And in order to collect possessions, you need tokens.
- The students start debating whether they should receive tokens when their best art is taken by Madame for the Gallery. One student, Roy J., talks to Miss Emily, the stern head guardian, about it. The guardians decide to give the students some tokens for artwork taken by Madame, but remind the students that having their work selected is also an honor.
- One day in class with Miss Lucy, they all discuss this tokens business. One girl asks Miss Lucy why Madame takes their artwork anyway. And Miss Lucy says that it is for a good reason, and she hopes they'll find out more someday. Gee, thanks Miss Lucy. That cryptic answer really helps us figure this whole mess out.
- All this tokens talk leads Kathy to tell us about Sales. The Sales happened once a month and everyone would get totally psyched about them. A van from the outside world would bring a load of goodies, and the students could use their tokens to purchase them.
- This was their only chance to put something into their collection from the world beyond Hailsham, so Sales were a pretty big deal.
- Most of the time the Sales were awesome because you bought cool things and hung out with your friends. But sometimes people would fight over the same item, and this meant a lecture for everyone from Miss Emily during the morning assembly.
- Miss Emily's lectures during these assemblies could be confusing. She would ramble about those who would "thwart us" but none of it ever made much sense to Kathy and her friends (and even less to us).
- Even so, Miss Emily always made one thing super obvious: "we were all very special, being Hailsham students" (4.23).
- But despite going on about Miss Emily for awhile, Kathy tells us that she doesn't really want to talk about this. What she really wants to tell us about is Ruth and how they became friends.
- Ruth wasn't Kathy's first friend, but Kathy does have a "vague memory" of Ruth from when they were around five or six years old (4.45).
- It all started in the sandpit. Ruth was angry at some girls who were playing near Kathy. And Kathy, being a wise kid, tried to make it clear that she wasn't with those girls. She didn't want to incur the wrath of Ruth.
- After this encounter in the sandpit, nothing memorable happened between Ruth and Kathy until they were seven years old. That's when Ruth came up to Kathy one day during lunch and asked if she'd like to ride one of her horses. Well, you know, imaginary horses, but still cool.
- Kathy joins Ruth and rides around on her imaginary pets. Ruth is kind of nice when she lets Kathy ride her best horse, Thunder. But then she's also kind of bossy and mean when she gives Kathy orders about how to ride the horses and put them away in the stables.
- Then, out of the blue, Ruth invites Kathy to be part of Miss Geraldine's secret guard.
- So what is this secret guard? Apparently it's a group of seven- to eight-year-old girls. And their group exists for two very important reasons:
- Reason #1: to make gifts for Miss Geraldine, their favorite teacher. She's the nicest! So they give her dried flowers glued to paper.
- Reason #2: to protect Miss Geraldine from the plot to kidnap her. Wait, what? Kidnap her? That sounds both scary and ridiculous, all at once.
- The secret guard doesn't know when the teacher-napping will occur. And they don't know who will do it. Turns out, they don't really know anything at all.
- But they do think that the abduction of Miss Geraldine will have something to do with the creepy woods behind Hailsham. There are stories of students who wandered into the woods only to be found dismembered or dead. Okay, this potential snatching of Miss G is getting creepier by the page, especially if you're a seven-year-old with a wild imagination.
- Ruth is the secret guard's leader (surprise, surprise) and she turns out to be a master of secrecy and mind-games. And playground warfare. She constantly alludes to information that only she knows. Ruth also claims the power to kick girls out of the secret guard.
- Case in point: the chess-playing incident. One day during the time they were in the secret guard, Kathy decides to purchase a chess set at a Sale and asks Ruth to teach her how to play.
- Ruth has pretended that she's the best chess player in the whole wide world. But when she teaches Kathy a game that clearly isn't chess, Kathy gets fed up and leaves in a huff. Uh oh, this can't end well.
- The next day, Kathy goes up to her secret guard friends in poetry class. They're all whispering together but Kathy doesn't get to join in on the fun. Ruthless Ruth has already passed judgment on poor Kathy and she gets the boot.
- So Kathy feels left out and doesn't get to gossip in corners anymore, which stinks big-time.
- A couple days later, Kathy finds herself chatting with Moira B., another secret guard cast-off. Moira says that the secret guard is stupid and childish.
- Instead of agreeing with Moira, though, Kathy gets seriously ticked off at the poor girl. She even lies and tells Moira that she heard about the plot against Miss Geraldine with her own ears, so Moira better go mind her own beeswax.
- Years later, when Kathy is caring for Ruth at the donor center in Dover, she remembers this conversation with Moira. Kathy doesn't tell Ruth about it, but it does remind Kathy that there was a certain kind of loyalty in their friendship.
- Telling her readers about Miss Geraldine makes Kathy think about this thing that happened involving her, Ruth, and Ruth's pretty pencil case. So it's time for another flashback.
- It's been three years since their secret guard obsession. One day, Kathy goes into class, sits by Ruth, and compliments Ruth's super fabulous pencil case. When Kathy asks if Ruth got this new accessory at a Sale, Ruth gives a cryptic answer: "Let's agree I got it in the Sale" (5.36).
- Apparently this comment actually implies that Miss Geraldine had given Ruth the pencil case. Kathy is sure this is what Ruth wants everyone to think, because Ruth had acquired the annoying habit of acting like Miss Geraldine gives her special treatment.
- Kathy normally tries to let these things roll right off of her, but this time she just can't let Ruth's lie go unexposed.
- After days of brooding and fantasizing about Ruth's future humiliation, Kathy realizes that maybe Ruth did buy the pencil case in a Sale. If Ruth had reserved the pencil case ahead of time, no one would have seen it before she purchased it. And if Kathy wanted to, she could just check the register of everything bought at the Sales. We've got a sleuth on our hands.
- But instead of actually checking the records, Kathy just pretends like she's checked the Sales register. So a month after the pencil case comment (yes, a month—the girl sure can brood), Kathy has a private conversation with Ruth. Kathy casually mentions that she was reading the Sales register and seeing what people had bought. To her surprise and horror, Ruth becomes extremely upset.
- Kathy immediately regrets all that time she's spent trying to hurt her friend's feelings and tries to backpedal, but Ruth walks off.
- We're still inside the pencil case flashback. After their private chitchat, things are a little weird between Kathy and Ruth. Ruth seems scared that Kathy will spread the truth about the pencil case, and Kathy feels bad about the whole thing. Yet they can't seem to fix it. We're thinking this is probably because they never actually talk out their problems.
- Then one day in art class, another student named Midge asks Ruth where she got her pencil case. When Ruth doesn't know how to answer, Kathy steps in and saves the day. She tells Midge that they can't reveal where the pencil case came from. It's a secret that only the privileged few get to know.
- Playing into Ruth's pencil case story seems to have done the trick, and the two are friends again. Since Kathy and Ruth haven't yet discovered the fine art of talking about their problems, Ruth tries to show Kathy her appreciation with a kind gesture.
- And Ruth gets her chance to be nice when Kathy loses her favorite cassette tape.
- Kathy tells us that this tape is her most precious possession. It's an album called Songs After Dark by Judy Bridgewater, and she just loves it. (There's a whole lot of stuff to read into this tape, so tune into "Symbols" for more. Oh, and Judy Bridgewater isn't a real singer, but check out "Brain Snacks" for some speculations on her real-life doppelgangers.)
- Kathy even listens to the tape nowadays while driving. Of course, she doesn't have the original one because it got lost, which is a bummer. Instead she has "the one Tommy and I found in Norfolk years afterwards—but that's another story I'll come to later" (6.21).
- For now, we get to hear about the original tape. Well, kinda-sorta. You know Kathy doesn't like to tell a story without a lot of interruptions, so here's the first one she gives us: an explanation about why Norfolk was such a big deal.
- Back at Hailsham, Miss Emily always taught lessons about England's geography. She uses maps and pictures from a calendar to give visuals for the different counties. Hmm, using calendar pictures to explain geography might give us a hint about the level of resources Hailsham has… or doesn't.
- But Miss Emily has no calendar pictures for Norfolk, no matter how many times she gives a lesson on it. And she calls it a "lost corner" because it juts out to the east (6.26). (By the way, Norfolk is a real place in England, and it really does jut out to the east.)
- The students latch onto this "lost corner" phrase because they called Hailsham's lost-and-found the "Lost Corner." Someone even claims that Miss Emily said that everything that gets lost in England ends up in Norfolk, so it really is a Lost Corner same as Hailsham's. And this idea just sticks.
- Eventually, when they get a little older, this notion that Norfolk is a lost-and-found for the whole country becomes a joke. But when they were younger, Kathy and her friends really believed that trucks would gather lost items from all over England and deliver them to Norfolk. We have to admit, a country-wide lost-and-found sounds pretty amazing.
- Oh, and Kathy also says, for the first time, that when they were young they knew very little about what lay beyond Hailsham. Apparently they never left Hailsham to see the "world outside" while they were growing up (6.29).
- So with all this hubbub around Norfolk being a Lost Corner and all, it was pretty crazy for Tommy and Kathy when they actually found the tape she'd lost when they were visiting Norfolk.
- And that takes us back to the original tape that Kathy lost, but not for long. Kathy tells us about the cassette's cover, which showed Judy smoking a cigarette. Smoking was entirely banned from Hailsham. So Kathy's next interlude in the cassette tape story is a flashback about smoking, among other things.
- One day in class at Hailsham, Miss Lucy was giving a lecture about smoking when Marge K. asked if she had ever smoked. Miss Lucy says she has, but that it's still a very bad thing to do.
- And it's especially bad for students of Hailsham because "keeping yourselves well, keeping yourselves healthy inside, that's much more important for each of you than it is for me" (6.39).
- Now that she's older, Kathy wonders why none of the students asked Miss Lucy for an explanation about why they're so different from the guardians and people outside Hailsham.
- Back to the tape again. Kathy's favorite song is track three, titled "Never Let Me Go." Hold on just a sec. The song and the book have the same title? Yep, and you can read more about that in "What's Up With the Title?"
- Kathy's favorite part of the song is the line "Baby, baby, never let me go" (6.46). And because she's eleven and not the best listener ever, Kathy thinks this song is about a woman who can't have kids but then miraculously has a baby. (At this point, we kindly recommend an edifying musical break. Go listen to Ace of Base's "All That She Wants" with the idea that the line "all that she wants is another baby" refers to an actual diaper-clad newborn and not a lover. And then you'll get an idea of how Kathy's misinterpretation went down. Plus, Ace of Base is simply good '90s fun.)
- One cheery afternoon, Kathy goes to her dorm room to listen to "Never Let Me Go" really loudly. As the song plays, Kathy enjoys a little make-believe. She picks up a pillow and, holding it like a baby, she sings "Baby, baby, never let me go" to her pillow-child (6.50).
- All of a sudden, she sees Madame watching her from the doorway and, get this, Madame is crying. And not just crying, but sobbing.
- This really freaks Kathy out, but she doesn't want to tell anyone about it.
- By the time Kathy talks about this incident with Tommy a few years later, they've learned that Hailsham students can't have babies, which is really sad. Tommy says that Madame was probably just upset because she knew that Kathy couldn't have a child.
- But Kathy points out that the whole baby thing was all in her own head. So how on earth could Madame have known that she was thinking about an actual baby? Hmm, good question.
- A few months after Madame saw Kathy with her pillow-baby, Kathy's tape goes missing. And she's super sad about it.
- Remember how Kathy started talking about the tape because it was connected with the pretty pencil case and how Ruth wanted to repay Kathy for standing up for her? Well Kathy connects the dots here, finally.
- Ruth tries really hard to find Kathy's tape, but can't. Instead, one day Ruth gives her a different cassette tape that she found at a Sale. Kathy is disappointed that it's not Judy Bridgewater, but feels happy at Ruth's thoughtfulness.
- And thirty-one-year-old Kathy still has the tape to this day. It's extra special to her because we learn some sad news: "now Ruth has gone" (6.70).
- Kathy wants to tell us about the last few years they had at Hailsham from ages thirteen to sixteen. And like typical teenagers, these were the more brooding years. You know, the years of inquisitive self-discovery and beginning to question what's going on around you? Yeah, those.
- Remember that chat Kathy had with Tommy by the pond, and how they talked about Miss Lucy? (If you need a refresher, hop back to Chapter 3). Kathy sees that conversation as a turning point between the early years at Hailsham and the darker teenage years. And after the pond-side conversation, Kathy starts to ask more questions. A lot more questions.
- She also starts to pay more attention to Miss Lucy. Kathy realizes that Miss Lucy is really different from the other guardians. And she gives us a flashback to show us how.
- In this memory, it's a rainy day during their last year at Hailsham. Miss Lucy overhears two boys having a conversation and stops them. They've been talking about what it would be like to go to America and become actors.
- This sort of day-dreaming really angers Miss Lucy. She doesn't like how the students don't have a clear picture of what their future will look like. So she decides to set the record straight.
- Miss Lucy explains to the class that they were created with a single purpose: to donate their vital organs. Yikes! Well, that sounds horrible, but it also clarifies those ominous references to "donations" we've been getting all along.
- This means that none of the Hailsham students will travel to America or get real jobs. Dreams? Dashed. Instead, they'll start making donations sometime after they leave Hailsham, and definitely before they are middle-aged.
- Kathy discusses Miss Lucy's revelation with Ruth years later while she is Ruth's carer at the recovery center in Dover. Ruth says that Miss Lucy explained even more to them, telling them how they'd be carers first and other details of the donations process. But Kathy remembers it differently.
- Kathy remembers how most people weren't that affected by Miss Lucy's speech. Excuse us, but this doesn't seem like an appropriate reaction to the revelation that one day someone is going to take away your vital organs while you're still alive. Where's the kicking and screaming?
- But Kathy explains why they're not that surprised. She and the other students felt like they already knew everything that Miss Lucy had revealed to them about donations. It's like their future was always implied, even if it was never explicitly explained. They knew it in their guts.
- Kathy realizes that a lot of the talks they had about donations coincided with talks about sex. The Hailsham students can't get pregnant from sex, but they are still taught to be careful about who they have sex with because sex can give you diseases.
- So while they're learning a bit about donations during sex-ed, the atmosphere around talking about donations begins to change. When they were younger, donations were a taboo subject. Mention them and you'd pretty much guaranteed your temporary banishment on the playground.
- At age thirteen, the students still didn't talk openly about donations, but they did become more comfortable with the subject. For example, they'd start joking around about them.
- And the idea of joking about donations reminds Kathy of a practical joke some boys played against Tommy right around the time he was having his tantrums. So with that we enter another flashback to a specific day at Hailsham.
- Tommy has cut his elbow, and an older boy warns Tommy that if he bends his arm then all the skin will unzip, which sounds pretty nasty. So Tommy starts keeping his arm straight at all times. And sadly for poor Tommy, it seems like everyone in the school is in on the joke except him.
- When Tommy asks Kathy to tie a splint to his arm so that he won't accidentally bend it at night, she doesn't know what to do. Should she
(A) tell Tommy that everyone is making fun of him and that the skin on his arm won't actually unzip, or
(B) agree to help with the splint to avoid hurting Tommy's feelings, but then also help carry on the joke?
- Kathy goes with option B but soon regrets it. Tommy finds out that he's the reason for everyone's laughter and Kathy feels like she betrayed him, which she—let's face it—pretty much did.
- But the point of this story is that it connects with the way the Hailsham students started joking about donations when they were around thirteen years old. This idea that you could unzip your skin became one way people joked about donations.
- Yet after Miss Lucy's big revelation, "jokes about donations faded away, and we started to think properly about things" (7.54).
- Years later, Kathy and Tommy talked about Miss Lucy and realized that they never thought about her feelings. Not even when Kathy came across their teacher in Room 22 one day and it was clear that something was up with Miss Lucy.
- Kathy starts this chapter with the story of meeting Miss Lucy in Room 22. In this flashback, she's sixteen and it's a beautiful day at Hailsham.
- When she finds Miss Lucy in Room 22, at first Kathy thinks that Miss Lucy is writing frantically on really dark paper. But then Kathy realizes that Miss Lucy is actually using a pen to deliberately black out the handwriting on light paper.
- And for reasons she can't quite explain, this totally freaks Kathy out. She starts worrying that something awful might be happening in the future. This idea is bolstered when Tommy has an upsetting interaction with Miss Lucy a few days later.
- But at the time, Kathy doesn't get to find out all the details about Tommy's experience with Miss Lucy. Kathy and Tommy's relationship had become extremely complicated for a bunch of reasons, and that throws a wrench in the whole communication thing.
- For starters, Tommy had been acting weird. Sometimes Kathy worried he'd start having tantrums again. For example, one time Kathy was showing Tommy a calendar that she'd picked up at an Exchange. Patricia C. had drawn pictures of Hailsham life for each month. But looking through the calendar seemed to make Tommy angry because he stalked off.
- Kathy realizes that she should have known this all had something to do with Miss Lucy. And that it also had to do with Tommy's anxieties about "being creative." But she didn't put it all together at the time because so much else was going on.
- And one big thing that was going on was Tommy and Ruth. They'd recently broken up.
- Wait, what? When did they start dating?
- Apparently Ruth and Tommy had been dating for about six months. According to Kathy, they seemed to genuinely like each other.
- And this brings up that topic of sex again. At Hailsham, the students received mixed signals about sex. On the one hand, the guardians encouraged students to recognize their physical needs if it was with the right person. But on the other hand, they also made you feel like if you got caught having sex then you'd be in big trouble. (When Rob D. and Jenny C. got caught having sex, they were told that they shouldn't have been doing it. But they also didn't get in trouble. See what we mean? Confusing, mixed signals.)
- At Hailsham, the students could also be cruel about sex. They called those students who "fancied someone your own sex" an "umbrella" (8.25). And they used the phrase "getting all umbrella" as a slur to insult someone.
- The students at Hailsham have started talking about sex all the time. And most of them are claiming that they're doing it all the time. It isn't until she's older that Kathy realizes that they probably weren't actually doing it. But she did know for sure that Ruth had sex with Tommy.
- Amid all of these raging hormones, Kathy starts to feel like the only virgin at Hailsham. So she decides that maybe she should practice with a boy she doesn't care about, just in case she isn't good at it. And she's decided to do it with Harry C., because he won't blabber about it to everyone.
- So Kathy starts to prepare herself by practicing on her own, and re-reading sex scenes in books.
- Eventually, Kathy feels as prepared as she's going to get. But timing just isn't on Kathy's side because this is when Ruth and Tommy break up.
- Kathy is still inside her flashback about sex and how Ruth and Tommy broke up.
- Shortly after their split, a few girls imply to Kathy that she is Ruth's "natural successor" and will end up dating Tommy next (9.3). All this time Kathy has been planning to sleep with Harry C. But this talk of her being a successor to Ruth has her even more confused about sex than before.
- To make things even more complicated, in the midst of all this sex stuff Ruth comes to Kathy for a favor.
- Ruth tells Kathy that she wants Tommy back. And she wants Kathy to help her out by talking to Tommy and convincing him that it'll be better the second time around.
- Yeah, because it's always a good idea to get a third person involved in a romantic tiff. Any job that comes with a catch phrase like "don't shoot the messenger" can't be all that much fun.
- Nonetheless Kathy agrees to play mediator between Ruth and Tommy. But first she wants to make sure that Ruth isn't just trying to hurt the guy. And Kathy also keeps repeating that she's the best person to talk to Tommy. Looks like there's a wee bit of power play going on here—maybe even a budding love triangle?
- When Kathy talks to Tommy, she discovers that he's not all that torn up over the break-up with Ruth. Instead, he's got something else stuck in his teeth—something that happened with Miss Lucy.
- Tommy tells Kathy that he had another discussion with Miss Lucy about being creative. Miss Lucy told him that it was a mistake for her to have told him not to worry about creativity. The truth, she says, is that his art is extremely important.
- And here's the cryptic reason why: "it's evidence" (9.39). But evidence of what?
- When Tommy asks if this has to do with Madame's Gallery, Miss Lucy confirms that it does and that the Gallery is important. So Tommy really should try harder at being creative, and right away, before it's too late. All of a sudden, being artsy has become the be-all-end-all of Tommy's world. He'd better get cracking on some stick figure drawings, pronto.
- Kathy wants to dissect this newest info from Miss Lucy with Tommy, but she realizes that first she's got a mission to accomplish. So she gets straight to the point and tells Tommy that Ruth wants to get back together. Kathy does her best to convince Tommy that the best thing he can do is be with Ruth, but Tommy doesn't seem so eager.
- The next day, big news travels through Hailsham: Miss Lucy has left the school. For good. Kathy tries to find Tommy so he can hear the news from her. After all, she knows just how much Miss Lucy meant to Tommy. But Tommy had already found out, and was all kinds of bummed.
- And how does Tommy deal with the loss of his favorite teacher? By getting back together with Ruth. Welp!
- Shmoopers and Shmoopettes, welcome to Part 2. The time has come for us to adjust our flashback scenery, because Kathy is now giving us memories with fresh new surroundings. While we spent a lot of time in Part 1 popping back to Hailsham, at the beginning of Part Two we go back to the Cottages instead.
- See, when it was time for the students to leave Hailsham, they were scattered all over the place. Kathy and seven others went to the Cottages, but other students ended up in places called "Poplar Farm" or "White Mansion."
- While they had classes at Hailsham, their main task during the approximately two years they'll spend at the Cottages is to write an essay on a topic of their choosing. We're thinking this may be the longest, vaguest deadline in the history of essay writing. Actually it sounds a lot like a dissertation.
- Kathy chooses to write her essay on Victorian novels. In some ways, the essays don't seem like that big of a deal. But when they first arrive at the Cottages, working on the essay is a way to still feel connected to Hailsham. That place may have been full of mystery, but at least it was home.
- And the Hailsham students didn't exactly move up in the real estate market when they moved to the Cottages. You see, the Cottages might sound cute and quaint, but they are actually the remains of a run-down farm that's been converted into living quarters. So they are cold and damp, and generally crummy.
- But at least Kathy gets to stick with her friends, because Ruth, Tommy, and the rest of their group all get moved together. Plus they also discover new friends when they meet the people who have already been living in the Cottages for a while. They call these folks the "veterans."
- Another difference between Hailsham and these new digs is that the Cottages have no guardians. Instead they have Keffers, a crabby old man who brings them supplies every few days. They might've preferred a nice teacher like Miss Geraldine to this grouchy dude.
- During the early days at the Cottages, Kathy and her friends are pretty cautious about wandering far from the farmhouses. They also feel like the awkward new kids who don't know how to exist without guardians and strict mealtimes.
- But eventually this new-kid discomfort wears off and Kathy ends up really enjoying her time there. The days don't have any particular schedule, so she gets to spend her time reading on the grass, debating philosophy over breakfast, and sometimes watching an American show on the TV. Now that's the life.
- Kathy, being a pretty observant lass, notices that lots of the veterans are imitating the manners of the characters they see on TV. They copy all sorts of things from the way they talk to the jokes they act out. But hey, who hasn't fallen victim to a little TV imitation?
- Ruth starts copying some of her gestures from the veteran couples. When she's with Tommy (yep, they're still a couple) Ruth does this weird thing where she taps his arm just above the elbow. This elbow tapping is all the rage among the veterans, probably because it comes from a TV show. And now Ruth is doing it, too. Which of course pushes Kathy's buttons like whoa.
- Kathy's annoyance comes to a head one afternoon while she's reading Daniel Deronda. Ruth interrupts Kathy's lovely reading time by showing off her knowledge about the novel and recapping its plot.
- Apparently it was considered a sign that you were settling in well at the Cottages if you were getting lots of reading done. As much as we love reading, we have to admit that this logic doesn't really make sense. And Kathy says so herself. Nonetheless, just like how everyone at Hailsham pretended they'd had sex whether or not they had, now everyone pretends they've read lots of books.
- On this particular afternoon, Ruth has her nose high in the air. She pretends to have read Daniel Deronda, but Kathy ain't havin' it. So she abruptly changes the subject and asks Ruth why she always does the elbow tapping thing to Tommy.
- This starts one of those fights between Kathy and Ruth where neither gal is really listening to the other one. Each lady just wants to get her own point across.
- Kathy's point is that the elbow tap is just something that happens on TV. It isn't how people act in "normal life" and she doesn't want Ruth to think she's acting like a real family would (10.24).
- Ruth's totally unrelated counterpoint is that Kathy must be jealous (okay, maybe it's not that unrelated). Ruth has made friends with the older veteran couples, like Chrissie and Rodney, while Kathy hasn't.
- Then Ruth throws in this accusation that really gets Kathy steamed: "Come to think of it, I suppose you haven't been that slow making friends with at least some of the veterans" (10.34). Whatever this means (and we're not sure yet), it gets Kathy mad enough that she stalks off.
- So Kathy and Ruth don't come to any conclusion, or really even listen to one another. But based on their track record in these sorts of confrontations, we're not really that surprised.
- Okay, so we already know that Kathy and Ruth have a ridiculously complex friendship that can go to pieces over a pencil case and be rectified by a cassette tape. And at the Cottages their bond only gets funkier. They have late night chats where they tell each other their deepest darkest secrets. But they also fight… a lot.
- Somehow this love-hate relationship works for them. The unspoken rule is that neither girl can use one of the secrets shared during their special talks as a weapon to insult the other one.
- But when there's an unspoken rule between two friends who have a tough time communicating, that rule is bound to be broken. And when Ruth says that thing about Kathy getting to know "some of the veterans" during their Daniel Deronda chat, Kathy sees this as a huge betrayal.
- To understand this betrayal, Kathy needs to give us some back-story. It all started with a conversation Kathy had with Ruth about sex. When they arrived at the Cottages, Kathy had hoped to meet a boy and become part of a couple. But somehow that plan went awry, and she ends up having a few one-nighters with some of the veterans instead.
- These one-night-stands have Kathy a little freaked out, so she confides in her gal pal Ruth. Kathy tells Ruth that sometimes she has such a strong urge to have sex that she'd just about do it with anybody. Ruth thinks this is pretty strange, but is sympathetic and tells Kathy not to worry about it.
- Oh, so that's why the comment about Kathy getting to know "some of the veterans" was so hurtful. Ruth was making an accusation based on something Kathy had confided in her. Got it.
- In hindsight, Kathy realizes that Ruth might also have felt betrayed that Kathy was getting on her about the elbow tapping thing.
- Ruth was really intent on fitting in with the veterans and putting Hailsham behind her. And that's probably why she was imitating that silly movement.
- This makes a lot of sense when Kathy realizes that Ruth didn't take her collection chest with her from Hailsham to the Cottages. Plus, the items that Ruth did bring with her she eventually asked Keffers to take to a charity shop.
- Kathy gives us some more details about life in the Cottages. Apparently they never really talk about the people who had left to become carers. And they never really talk about the "courses" that people attend for a few days at a time to learn to become carers. Basically, don't talk about that whole carer business.
- People at the Cottages were also pretty obsessed with porn magazines. The rags circulate around the house until old Keffers would get mad and confiscate them.
- One day, Kathy takes some of these porn magazines into the boiler hut and starts flipping through them. She's zooming through the pages super quickly, only looking at the girls' faces. When Tommy finds Kathy flipping through these magazines, he explains that she's not supposed to go through the pictures at the speed of light.
- But Kathy has her own reasons for the way she's rushing through the stash of porn. And, of course, she's not going to tell us what those reasons are just yet.
- Kathy wants to tell us about the trip to Norfolk. But, in true Kathy fashion, she wants to give some back-story first.
- One day, toward the end of their first winter in the Cottages, Ruth tells Kathy that Chrissie and Rodney have made a potential discovery. While they were visiting a town up by Norfolk, they think they saw Ruth's "possible."
- The notion of "possibles" isn't something Kathy has told us about yet, and she says that they are something the students never really talked about much at Hailsham or the Cottages. If you ask us, the list of things not to talk about is getting pretty long: sex, donations, becoming carers, prior Cottage inhabitants, and now possibles, whatever those are.
- Kathy tells us what they are when she drops this bomb on us: "Since each of us was copied at some point from a normal person, there must be, for each of us, somewhere out there, a model getting on with his or her life" (12.10).
- Um, excuse us? Did Kathy really need to wait until halfway through the novel to reveal that she and the others are clones?
- Okay, so possibles are the normal folk that Kathy and her pals were copied from. When one of the clones goes out into the real world beyond the Cottages, they keep an eye out for these original models. (Talk about awkward encounters.) They aren't sure if the possibles would be older than them, like parents would be. Or perhaps the clones would have been copied from babies so the possibles would be their own age.
- Yep, as usual, there are more questions than answers. Even so, apparently Chrissie and Rodney may have found Ruth's possible.
- Kathy is skeptical of the whole thing, especially because Ruth is already worked up about hypothetical "dream futures" that she might have if she could work in an office before becoming a carer.
- But despite her wariness, Kathy insists on going with Ruth to see this potential possible. And this is how Ruth, Kathy, Tommy, Chrissie, and Rodney end up taking a road trip to Norfolk.
- It's road trip time.
- The day before they're planning to take off, there's a mix-up with the cars. The idea that the trip might get cancelled has Ruth really upset. But, happily, things get sorted out, and Chrissie, Rodney, Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy are on their way to the seaside town along the coast of Norfolk.
- With any longish car ride, there's always a little bit of bickering. And you know that the two having a tiff about the seating arrangement in the car is going to be Ruth and Kathy. But it blows over quickly and they get on their merry way again.
- When they reach the seafront town by Norfolk, the whole gang is excited just to be out in the world. Freedom and all that jazz. But since there's really nothing keeping them from taking day trips like this more often, we're wondering why they don't venture out for some R&R more frequently. We've heard Bath is lovely this time of year.
- While eating lunch at a café, they start chatting about old friends who have become carers (apparently the don't-talk-about-carers rule changes once you leave the Cottages). They also daydream about how wonderful it would be to work in a shop.
- According to Chrissie and Rodney, the possibility of working in a shop could only happen for Hailsham students, because they're extra special. They heard of a Hailsham girl who got to work in a clothes shop in Wales, and a Hailsham guy who got to be a park keeper.
- But there's one particular Hailsham perk that Chrissie and Rodney are super interested in. They want to get a deferral so they can spend more time together before they become carers and then start their donations.
- There have been rumors going around the veterans at the Cottages about these so-called deferrals. Chrissie and Rodney heard that Hailsham students could sometimes get deferrals if they could prove that they were really in love. Of course, Chrissie and Rodney didn't go to Hailsham, but they figure Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy would know all about these deferrals and how to apply.
- Throughout this chat about deferrals, Ruth has started nodding, like she knows just what Chrissie and Rodney are talking about. Ruth makes a comment about how they were told a bit about deferrals but didn't talk much about them at Hailsham, which is total cockamamie. But Kathy backs up her friend, just to be nice.
- Tommy, on the other hand, tells Chrissie and Rodney the truth: prior to the rumors at the Cottages, he's never heard anything about all this deferrals stuff before in his life.
- Ruth tries to explain Tommy's ignorance by saying that he wasn't "a real Hailsham student" because he was always teased and left out (13.58). Ouch, Ruth, that one stings. After this jab, Kathy looks at Tommy's face, and she sees the old Tantrum Tommy creeping back for a moment.
- After leaving the café, Kathy, Ruth, Tommy, Chrissie, and Rodney head into a Woolworth's shop. Then they search for the office building where Chrissie and Rodney saw Ruth's possible.
- When they find it, the gang is amazed. The office building looks just like the one they saw in a magazine and the people at the desks inside all look happy. Working in an office seems totally glamorous.
- Rodney points out Ruth's possible. She's a fifty-something lady who is talking with a coworker. As she laughs, Kathy realizes that there was "more than a hint of Ruth about" her (14.22). We're starting to wonder how Ruth feels upon seeing a possible version of herself living her dream life. Probably not very good.
- After awhile, the gang realizes they're being watched by others inside the office. When one person waves to them, they freak out and run away.
- Everyone except Ruth is stoked about how similar Ruth is to her possible. And the fact that she works in a cool office building is a bonus. But Ruth isn't as visibly excited as the rest. Kathy's having a tough time reading her friend's emotional state, so we're still left wondering how Ruth feels.
- They decide to wait around for a bit, and then go check out Ruth's possible again. But before they can go back, Tommy spots Ruth's possible leaving the building. The group follows this lady all the way to a little art gallery—creepy much? And it's pretty lucky they aren't seen since they're not exactly the savviest stalkers.
- The gang follows Ruth's possible into the gallery and pretends to be interested only in the paintings.
- Now that they're in the gallery and up close and personal with Ruth's possible, each of them has a sad realization: this lady isn't really similar to Ruth at all.
- Once they've left the gallery, Ruth declares that she's known all along this woman couldn't have been her possible. If they want to find their originals, they shouldn't look in nice office buildings. Instead, they should "look in the gutter" (14.61).
- Kathy tries to stop Ruth from talking like this, but Ruth insists that they are cloned from the riffraff of society.
- This whole discussion upsets Kathy. So when Chrissie and Rodney head off to visit a friend of theirs who lives in Norfolk, Kathy stays behind.
- Ruth and Tommy are forced to pick teams. Ruth makes a big show of choosing the veterans, and Tommy sticks with Kathy.
- Tommy tries to cheer Kathy up about all this possibles talk by telling her that while they were in Woolworth's he was looking for that tape she lost all those years ago. Apparently Ruth had told Tommy about the Judy Bridgewater cassette tape when Kathy lost it at Hailsham. At the time, he'd tried really hard to find it but never could.
- Remember how in Chapter 6 Kathy said she'd tell us later about the time they found the tape in Norfolk? Well, Shmoopers, that time has come.
- They're in England's lost-and-found town, so Kathy and Tommy decide to see if they can find the tape together. As they set off on this adventure, they've gone from depressed to warm and fuzzy inside. Ah, friendship.
- In a second-hand shop, Kathy finds the Judy Bridgewater tape. Score.
- Tommy is excited for Kathy but he's also sad. All these years, he's imagined finding the tape for Kathy and giving it to her. How sweet is that?
- Tommy buys the tape for Kathy and they leave the shop.
- Then, out of the blue, Tommy brings up the idea of deferrals again. He tells Kathy that he's sure no one at Hailsham ever told them about deferrals. But if the rumors going around the Cottages that you can apply for a deferral are true, then that would explain the purpose of Madame's Gallery.
- It all goes back to that tokens controversy at Hailsham. (For a refresher, pop back to Chapter 4 and revisit the scene. But here's a quick recap: the students wanted to receive tokens for the artwork taken away by Madame.)
- Tommy reminds Kathy of an important detail that she hasn't told us yet. When Roy J. talked to Miss Emily about this tokens business, Miss Emily said that artwork is so important because it reveals your soul. Hmm, makes us think about digging up our old kindergarten finger paintings.
- Tommy's theory goes like this: if two people from Hailsham are in love, the deferral application committee would need to see proof that their love is real. And if the higher-ups have been collecting their art, which reveals their souls, then they'd have all the evidence they'd need. The soul-revealing art would help them to weed out the couples who aren't really in love from the ones who are.
- Kathy is intrigued. After all, this would explain quite a few things:
(1) Why the guardians cared so much about Hailsham students being creative.
(2) Why Miss Lucy told Tommy that it really is important for him to produce good artwork.
(3) Why Madame would have gotten so upset when she saw Kathy swaying to "Never Let Me Go." (Kathy figures that Madame probably thought Kathy was pretending to hold her lover and not a baby.)
- But then Kathy and Tommy have a sad realization: Tommy never got anything into the Gallery.
- So Tommy tells Kathy something he's been keeping secret from everyone, even Ruth. He's been working on some drawings of imaginary animals. He figures it's good to have some soul-revealing artwork on hand, just in case. You never know when it might come in handy.
- When Kathy and Tommy are back at the car and waiting for the others, they discuss Ruth's theory that their clone models are the riffraff of society. Tommy realizes that this clarifies why Kathy was looking through the porn magazines so quickly: she was trying to find her possible.
- But why would Kathy's possible be a porn star? Kathy thinks that maybe her overwhelming urges to have sex might come from the model she was cloned from.
- It's been an emotional afternoon for Kathy and Tommy, to say the least. But when Ruth, Rodney, and Chrissie return, everyone is in a good mood. So the car ride home is actually pretty enjoyable, and it's a good end to the road trip to Norfolk.
- Now that they're all back from Norfolk, no one is really talking about their trip. Even Kathy and Tommy aren't taking the time to dissect Tommy's theory about deferrals and the Gallery.
- In fact, the only time they chat about this theory is when Tommy shows Kathy his latest animal drawings.
- Kathy thinks these drawings are totally unique, so that's nice. Tommy finally gets to be creative without being teased or having someone put his toothbrush in the toilet, which is a bonus.
- Eventually, summer arrives and things are changing around the Cottages. A bunch of people have left to become carers in the previous spring, and now a new batch of residents for the Cottages has arrived.
- One thing that hasn't changed is the complicated love-hate relationship between Kathy and Ruth. Kathy keeps getting annoyed at Ruth for pretending that she doesn't remember details about Hailsham. For example, one night when Kathy mentions the rhubarb patch at Hailsham, Ruth pretends like she's never even heard of it and Kathy tells her off.
- But, in typical Kathy fashion, we can't fully understand what was going on in this conversation without some back-story.
- So Kathy takes us back a few weeks, to when she was dating this dude named Lenny. The relationship didn't last long, because Lenny suddenly left to start his carer training.
- In the post-Lenny weeks, Ruth decides to show her awesome gal pal side and is super supportive of Kathy. In one late night chat session, there's the potential for things to go wrong when Ruth discovers the Judy Bridgewater tape and how Kathy and Tommy found it together in Norfolk. Ruth appears a little miffed that no one mentioned it to her, but seems to let it go. Crisis averted, or so we think.
- Kathy and Ruth change topics from the tape to Tommy's animal drawings. They engage in a bit of light-hearted teasing, since Ruth clearly doesn't think much of the animals. Kathy laughs along with her friend, never really stopping to say how good she thinks the drawings are.
- So far, all this seems harmless enough. But then several days later this chummy late-night conversation blows up in Kathy's face.
- She comes across Tommy and Ruth having a conversation in a nearby abandoned churchyard. When Kathy gets the feeling that she's interrupted something, Ruth's jealousy rears its ugly head.
- Ruth is upset that Tommy talked about his latest theory on the Gallery with Kathy. To Ruth, the fact that she, his girlfriend, is just finding out now is so not cool.
- To make matters worse, Ruth tells Tommy that his drawings aren't any good, and that even Kathy thinks they're a joke.
- At this point it is appropriate to start screaming at the page for Kathy to stick up for herself and tell Tommy how much she likes his artwork. But she doesn't—Kathy just stays silent.
- And then she walks away, which apparently is something people like to do in this book instead of finishing a conversation.
- Kathy realizes years later that this churchyard chat was a huge deal. In fact, it happened at a time when things were already beginning to change and pull the Kathy-Ruth-Tommy trio apart. More and more people were heading out to become carers, and soon the trio would, too.
- Now that she's explained this back story, Kathy reminds us why she's been telling us about these tensions among her, Tommy, and Ruth in the first place. It all goes back to the conversation where Ruth pretended not to remember the rhubarb patch at Hailsham, and how Kathy got so mad at her.
- This time, when Kathy tells the story of why Ruth's pretend-amnesia bothered her so much, she gives us the whole conversation. This chat starts off with something we're not used to seeing from Kathy and Ruth: they talk directly about their problems. It's a miracle!
- They discuss the recent blow-up where Ruth belittled Tommy's artwork. And Ruth says she and Tommy are cool now. Kathy, on the other hand, hasn't really patched things up with Tommy.
- Once they get on the topic of Tommy, Ruth gets deep about her relationship with this sweet, animal-drawing man. She admits that they're not a perfect couple, which is pretty obvious to everyone with eyes.
- Then Ruth starts talking about Kathy and Tommy, which could get awkward. Ruth says she knows that Kathy might have wondered what might happen if Tommy were on the dating market again. Obviously, anyone can see that there's the possibility Tommy and Kathy might have made a great couple.
- The thing is, according to Ruth, Tommy could never look at Kathy like a real girlfriend. Kathy has been with a few different guys at the Cottages and Ruth says that's a deal breaker for Tommy. So even though Tommy likes Kathy, he could never like like her.
- Kathy clearly doesn't know how to react to this, but Ruth soon changes the subject. Somehow they end up talking about Hailsham and this is when Kathy mentions the rhubarb patch and Ruth pretends to have selective memory loss.
- Kathy never explicitly tells us what made her so angry. But it's pretty clear that it all comes back to Tommy and Ruth and the not-so-platonic triangle this trio has together.
- Based on Kathy and Ruth's track record, we're not surprised that the chat ends with some weirdness between them.
- And things are about to get weirder because Kathy has decided to leave the Cottages for good. She fills out the forms to become a carer, and soon leaves without having really patched things up with either Tommy or Ruth.
- At the beginning of Part 3, Kathy's story has caught up to the present day again. This means another change of scenery. Instead of focusing on Hailsham or the Cottages, now Kathy tells us about her time in the recovery centers.
- She's a carer and she's exceptionally fantastic at it. But not everyone can handle being a carer, and some even look forward to becoming a donor because the carer gig is no picnic.
- There are two big reasons why the life of a carer is so tough:
(1) Donors eventually "complete." Some of them don't even make it past their second donation. This is bound to be a downer to watch.
(2) Being a carer is a lonely job. There's a lot of driving between recovery centers, and it doesn't seem like there are many days off or much time to make friends. Plus, the friends you make are the donors who will eventually complete. Again, that sounds pretty depressing.
- But Kathy is cool with the solitude and likes all the driving, so she makes a good carer.
- One day, about seven years after leaving the Cottages, Kathy runs into Laura. Laura was in Kathy's girl group at Hailsham and had been moved to the Cottages with Kathy, and now she's a carer, too.
- You know how when you run into an old chum it's so great to catch up about all your shared friends and your favorite memories and that one thing you did at school together that was so much fun? Well that's not what this conversation is like. Not. At. All.
- Instead, Kathy and Laura have mostly sad news to share with each other.
- They've both heard that Ruth had a bad first donation, which sounds horrible. Laura suggests that maybe Kathy should become Ruth's carer, but Kathy's not sure that's such a good idea. Of course, we already know that Kathy soon changes her mind.
- Perhaps the saddest news of all is that Hailsham has closed.
- There had been rumors going around about Hailsham shutting down for awhile. But it wasn't until Kathy ran into Roger C., another Hailsham student, that the news really started to sink in.
- The worst part, for Kathy, is that Hailsham was a place that tied her to all those students she grew up with. Even if she'll never see most of them again, that special place they grew up in would always bind them together, which is important when you lead such a lonely life.
- But with Hailsham closing, what will happen to this bond? Kathy gives us a visual: she sees a clown holding a bunch of balloons shaped like faces (which sounds pretty creepy to us). And closing Hailsham is like cutting the strings of the balloons so that they all fly away in different directions (which sounds really sad).
- This idea convinces Kathy to become Ruth's carer. She's got to try to hold onto at least one of those creepy face-shaped balloons.
- When Ruth and Kathy first see one another again after all these years, it's actually quite touching. They hug and talk about the past.
- But things go south pretty quickly. Their exchanges become awkward and eventually Kathy realizes that Ruth doesn't really trust her.
- Kathy has just about given up on the relationship when a rumor about a stranded boat starts going around the recovery centers across the country.
- It's stranded on the sand, and Ruth thinks it would be pretty awesome to check it out. Plus, as a bonus, Tommy is at the Kingsfield recovery center, which is right by where the beached boat is located.
- With all this talk of visiting the boat and maybe seeing Tommy, Kathy learns how things ended between Ruth and her main squeeze. They stayed together until Ruth left to become a carer. It wasn't a dramatic break-up, or really a break-up at all. It just ended because she left.
- It's time for another road trip.
- Kathy and Ruth arrive at the Kingsfield recovery center to pick up Tommy for their little reunion tour. After hugs and greetings, they are on their merry way to find the boat.
- While on the road, there's a tense moment where Kathy and Tommy aren't paying attention to Ruth's long-winded anecdote about a fellow donor. When Kathy tells Ruth not to be so detailed, Tommy agrees. Somehow this makes Kathy feel like things are a-okay between her and Tommy, even after all this time.
- But Ruth, well, she doesn't really act like Ruth. The old Ruth would have been annoyed by Kathy's comment and the fact that Tommy agreed with Kathy. But this donor-version of Ruth just accepts the situation.
- Once the trio has parked the car, they start heading off through some woods to find the boat. There's a barbed wire fence with an opening that they need to duck through, and Ruth feels panicky that they won't be able to do it. In fact, you'd think this were a minefield judging by her reaction.
- Kathy and Tommy help Ruth through the fence. It's clear just how weak Ruth has become. In contrast, Tommy seems to be pretty healthy, even without those vital organs he's already donated.
- They exit the woods and see what they came for: a boat stranded on a marshland. It might seem simple, but they are all in awe of its beauty.
- So the trio sits by some tree trunks and chats. They talk about what Hailsham might look like now and the rumors they've heard about completing.
- To be honest, the talk is pretty grim. All three of them have heard that Chrissie completed after only her second donation, which is fairly early. Ruth is convinced that these early completions happen more often than anyone wants to admit.
- On the drive back to Kingsfield, they pull the car over to look at a billboard showing an office building. While they're stopped on the side of the road, Ruth decides to confront the trio's past issues head-on. So she makes two confessions.
- The first confession is about sex. Ruth tells Kathy that she also had super strong urges to have sex sometimes at the Cottages. Well, Ruth, you're about a decade late with that info. But she hopes Kathy will forgive her extremely belated truth-telling.
- The second confession is about Kathy and Tommy. Ruth says the worst thing she's ever done is keep them apart. Ruth pressured Tommy into picking her even though he should have always been with Kathy. Ruth doesn't even expect them to forgive her, because what she did was just so awful.
- Even though she doesn't expect their forgiveness, Ruth gives Kathy and Tommy something she hopes will help make-up for her selfish behavior: Madame's address. This way, Kathy and Tommy can try to apply for a deferral.
- By this point, Kathy is sobbing and Tommy looks bewildered. Once again, it's been an emotional road trip.
- After they drop Tommy off at his recovery center, Kathy and Ruth head back to Dover. There's definitely some tension between them, but there's also a sense of relief. At least now things are out in the open, which is more than we could say for the majority of Kathy and Ruth's friendship.
- Over the next few days, things actually start turning around between Kathy and Ruth. They spend evenings shooting the breeze over biscuits and mineral water, just like old times. It's during these chats at the recovery center that they have all the talks we've heard snippets of throughout the novel.
- Sadly, their bonded girl-time eventually comes to an end. A couple days after Ruth's second donation, Kathy sees her friend for the last time. Ruth can't talk and it's obvious she isn't going to make it.
- Kathy sits with Ruth during her last hours, when Ruth is technically conscious but isn't really present. Kathy tells Ruth that she's going to become Tommy's carer, just like Ruth wanted. The two girls lock eyes for a moment and Kathy hopes that somehow Ruth knows that she and Tommy are going to do their best to get a deferral, and that Ruth's efforts weren't in vain.
- So one year after their road trip to see the boat, Kathy becomes Tommy's carer. This means she spends a lot of time with him in his room at Kingsfield. Tommy needs rest because he's recently given his third donation. But they spend their time talking or reading together.
- They also find another way to pass the time: sex. This might not seem like the ideal post-operation activity, but apparently it works for them.
- There's just one thing that puts a damper on their sex life, and that's the awareness that they could have been together for much longer if things had been different. This is a sad thought that's hard for both of them to shake.
- One day they wile away the time looking at Tommy's animal drawings. He's still been working on them since the Cottages. When he asks for Kathy's honest opinion about the drawings, she takes it as a sign that they can put that churchyard chat (the one where Ruth said even Kathy thought Tommy's pictures were ridiculous) behind them. It only took nearly a decade, but things are finally getting patched up, which is great.
- What's not so great is the fact that Kathy thinks Tommy's drawing skills aren't quite what they used to be. We're thinking he can't be blamed, since he's now down three vital organs. But the change in his artwork has Kathy worried. She can't help but realize that they aren't young and hip and with all their organs anymore, so maybe it's too late for them.
- Eventually, the lovebirds can't avoid the topic of deferrals any longer. Inevitably, Tommy will get a notice for his fourth donation. So it's time to start planning their trip to visit Madame.
- Before they go, Kathy does some detective work. She goes to the address Ruth gave them and does some surveillance on Madame's supposed house in Littlehampton. Eventually, Madame shows up and looks exactly like she used to, right down to the same clothes.
- With the site confirmed, Tommy and Kathy hatch a plan. Next week, when Kathy signs Tommy out to get some labs done, they'll stop at Littlehampton on the way home. They'll bring some animal drawings and, with a little luck, maybe they'll get a deferral.
- So it's time for the third road trip of the novel: to visit Madame.
- On the day of their trip, Kathy and Tommy first get his labs done and then head to Littlehampton. They see Madame walking in the town and follow her back to her house.
- Outside her home, Kathy calls out to Madame, who looks just as scared as that time Kathy and her girlfriends bum-rushed Madame outside of Hailsham. Somehow Madame seems to know that they are clones. But how?
- Madame invites them inside and the whole situation becomes pretty awkward and mysterious from the start. On the one hand, Madame has a picture of Hailsham in her house, so that's sweet. On the other, she's clearly frightened of the guests sitting right on her living room sofa, so that's, um, awkward.
- The good news is that when Kathy starts to explain that they want to get a deferral, Madame stops seeming so intimidating. The bad news is that Madame appears confused about why they've come to her for this so-called deferral.
- So Tommy explains his theory on Madame's Gallery, and things get awkward again. For a moment, Madame doesn't seem to know what this Gallery is.
- But when she realizes that Tommy is referring to the art she collected from Hailsham students, she starts to piece the puzzle together. Madame understands that the Hailsham lovebirds think their art reveals their inner selves, so that's how she could test to see if they are really in love. We're thinking that the fact that Madame didn't even recognize the term "Gallery" at first isn't a good sign.
- By the way, throughout this conversation Madame keeps interjecting weird questions like "Do I go too far?" and "Do we continue?" Kathy is confused at first, but then realizes that the questions are for someone else.
- A mysterious voice eventually responds to Madame (and we learn that Madame's first name is Marie-Claude). Kathy also hears some mechanical noises. Creepy.
- Madame heads into the hallway to push the mysterious guest's wheelchair into the living room. And that's when Tommy and Kathy come face to face with their old guardian, Miss Emily.
- Tommy and Kathy have a long Q&A session with Miss Emily. If you ask us, it's about time they get some answers about their strange existence.
- Q: Kathy asks if the rumors about deferrals are true. Even just a little bit true?
- A: Miss Emily tells her that they are not. And our hearts sink.
- Q: Tommy steps in: Were the rumors about deferrals ever true?
- A: Nope. Miss Emily says that even before Hailsham closed and before something called the "Morningdale scandal" there was never ever the option of getting a deferral.
- Q: Tommy wants to know why Madame took their best art away. Was it for her Gallery?
- A: Miss Emily tells them that Madame did have a gallery, of sorts. What's left of the gallery is in the house they currently sit in.
- Q: But that still doesn't answer why Madame took away the students' best art. Also, Kathy wants to know why they bothered teaching Hailsham students to produce art if they are just going to give donations and die. Why bother teaching Hailsham students at all?
- A: Miss Emily tells them that Tommy was partially right when he said that Madame took their art to reveal their souls. But the truth is even more shocking than that: "we did it to prove you had souls at all" (22.19). Now that's just cold.
- Q: Kathy wants to know why on earth that needs to be proven. After all, it seems pretty obvious to her that she has a soul.
- A: Miss Emily says that in the beginning, clones were just part of medical science. No one really thought about their welfare at all. But then people like Miss Emily and Madame came out of the woodwork to start Hailsham, and a couple similar schools were started as well. They wanted to prove that clones deserved decent living conditions and could be just like ordinary people. Or at least they could be ordinary until that whole organ donations thing had to start.
- By the late '70s, a decent amount of support had grown for these humane efforts. They would hold big events where they'd display the clones' artwork, hoping to prove just how human the students really were. By the way, Miss Emily insists on calling them students, with a great deal of emphasis, instead of clones.
- Q: Kathy asks why anyone would want to treat them poorly. It just doesn't make sense to her.
- A: Miss Emily explains that the first breakthroughs in medical science happened in the early 1950s. The discoveries happened quickly, and people were excited. In fact, people were so excited that most didn't really consider the ethics behind growing these students with the sole purpose of harvesting their organs.
- Eventually, it was just impossible to turn back the clock. People liked having cures for their diseases, and weren't going to go back to a time when their own health was more at risk. So people just tried their best to ignore the fact that clones were behind their cures. And they pretended that clones weren't really people.
- Then the pro-clone movement started. Miss Emily, Madame, and some others fought for clone rights, but all they could really hope to achieve was better lives for the clones before beginning donations. And until the "Morningdale scandal" they at least achieved those goals.
- Q: Kathy asks what this whole "Morningdale scandal" refers to. And we're grateful because we've been dying to know.
- A: Miss Emily gives the history. This dude named James Morningdale was trying to figure out a way for humans to have super-human children. Basically, he wanted all children to be genetically superior "Captain America" types. This really freaked people out. If a new generation of kids could be engineered to be smarter and better than those already living, what would happen to those regular humans already slumming it on earth?
- So even though Morningdale wasn't trying to engineer a superior version of humans for donations, the whole thing turned the public opinion even further against the pro-clone movement. The idea of engineered beings became something dangerous. It was easier to ignore clones than bring them up like bona fide human beings who could think for themselves.
- Q: Tommy wants to double-check that there really are no deferrals. None at all?
- A: Miss Emily says there's nothing to be done, except for them to live the life that's set for them.
- Q: Tommy and Kathy both want to know if any of this relates to Miss Lucy. Does all this stuff have something to do with why she left?
- A: Miss Emily explains the circumstances of Miss Lucy's departure. Miss Lucy—who Miss Emily calls Lucy Wainright—thought that students should be told more about the future that was set out for them. This was problematic because the whole idea behind Hailsham was that it was better to shelter the students from the truth. And if that meant lying to them sometimes, then that was okay because it gave students a childhood and some form of happiness (and no ability to fight for themselves, Shmoop might add).
- According to Miss Emily, this is why students like Tommy and Kathy could get into their art and enjoy their lessons. If they knew the end was such a bleak one, what would have been the point? So Miss Lucy was fired to protect their innocence.
- The Q&A session ends when Miss Emily must go help Madame move a small cabinet. Madame has been making weird interjections throughout the Q&A, while also helping the moving men to remove the small cabinet from upstairs. Apparently Madame and Miss Emily have gone into debt trying to save Hailsham, and now they are selling off some personal belongings as a result.
- But before Miss Emily departs entirely, Kathy tells Miss Emily that Madame was always afraid of them. Miss Emily says that they were all scared and disgusted by the students (that seems a little rude!), but they still did the right thing and fought for the students' welfare.
- Tommy and Kathy leave the house, without the deferral they were hoping for. When they encounter Madame on the front pavement, Madame says that she remembers Kathy.
- Kathy reminds Madame of the time Madame saw her singing and dancing to "Never Let Me Go." Madame says that Kathy must be telepathic, because that is exactly what Madame was thinking of. According to Madame, even today when she hears that song she thinks of the Hailsham girl dancing in her room.
- But it turns out Kathy and Madame weren't imagining the same thing while little Kathy was dancing to the Judy Bridgewater track. Kathy tells Madame how she was imagining holding a baby.
- Madame, in contrast, was imagining a little girl clinging to an old world while a new harsh world of medical advances was rapidly coming. To be fair, it probably would've been impossible for little Kathy to have such a complex thought, especially since she wasn't entirely aware of all the medical advances that led to her existence.
- On the way back to the recovery center, Kathy takes the back roads and she and Tommy are fairly quiet. Then, out of the blue, Tommy says that he agrees with Miss Lucy's way of thinking, and not Miss Emily's.
- When he asks Kathy to pull over so he can get out and walk into the nearby cow field, Kathy gives him a moment alone. After all, it's been a long day and he has lost three organs so he could be feeling car-sick.
- But then Kathy hears Tommy screaming. She gets out of the car to find him flailing and yelling in the darkness. When Kathy first approaches Tommy during this tantrum, he resists her hug.
- Eventually he stops screaming and flailing, and the two hold each other in the middle of the field.
- So far, this whole road trip has been pretty depressing. But then we get a bit of comic relief, because Kathy tells Tommy that he smells like cow poo.
- The little laughter doesn't last long, though, because Kathy gets serious again. She tells Tommy that she thinks he had tantrums when they were kids because "at some level you always knew" (22.105).
- Once they're back at Kingsfield during the weeks after this meeting with Madam and Miss Emily, there's some tension between Tommy and Kathy. They're still having a good time together, but things haven't exactly gone back to normal.
- Part of the problem is that sometimes Kathy feels a little left out when Tommy is with his donor friends, almost like he'd rather be with them than her. Plus, Tommy keeps reminding Kathy that she doesn't understand his situation because she's not yet a donor. Ouch.
- Actually, there was this one time that he reminded her of how she couldn't understand being a donor that really ticked her off.
- It happened right around when Tommy had received notice that he'd soon be giving his fourth donation. That can't be good news.
- Kathy and Tommy had talked about this fourth donation a lot. Tommy had some fears, which lots of people going into their fourth donations had, and we can't blame them. The biggest fear was that after your fourth donation, you wouldn't really complete, but you also wouldn't recover. Instead, the donor would be left in a sort of limbo where the doctors would keep you alive and semi-conscious so they could take any remaining organs when they needed them, but you'd have no control and no power. That sounds awful.
- Even despite these fears, Kathy thought Tommy was handling his fourth donation pretty well.
- But then Tommy drops a bomb on her: he wants her to stop being his carer before he goes for the fourth donation.
- Kathy is really upset about this, and we can understand why. One major point of becoming Tommy's carer was to help him through these rough patches. She says it's what Ruth would've wanted.
- But Tommy disagrees. He doesn't want Kathy to see him at the end, and he doesn't think Ruth would want that either. According to Tommy, Ruth would understand because she was a donor. Kathy, in contrast, isn't a donor yet, so she just can't understand.
- Kathy gets upset that Tommy has turned this into an issue of donors versus carers, with her alone on one side and Tommy and Ruth together on the other. But thankfully, even though she's hurt, this doesn't blow-up into a big argument.
- When they talk about the issue again later, Tommy asks why Kathy doesn't just become a donor. In the end, everyone donates and completes, so what's the difference? And though Kathy thinks it's important to have good carers, even she agrees that it won't be long before she becomes a donor, too.
- Clearly, things aren't looking up for Tommy and Kathy. He's going into his fourth donation and she'll probably become a donor soon. With their inevitable separation looming on the horizon, Tommy tells Kathy that he has this image in his head of what they are experiencing.
- In this image, Tommy pictures two people in a river. They are trying to hold each other tight, but they can't because the rough current drives them part. There's nothing the couple can do, so their hold on one another fails.
- Unlike this raging river, Kathy's last few weeks with Tommy are nice and calm.
- On their last day together, they talk about Ruth. Tommy says that part of him is happy that Ruth didn't find out what they did from Miss Emily. Maybe it was good that she got to complete thinking Tommy and Kathy still had a chance.
- But there's a part of Kathy that wishes Ruth knew all that they'd learned. This is mostly because she feels like Ruth didn't get to be part of their trio in gaining those particular pieces of knowledge. At this point in her life, Kathy wishes they could be a trio in everything.
- She also tells us that she's forgiven Ruth and is no longer angry, so that's good.
- At the end of their last day together, Kathy and Tommy say a quiet goodbye. Tommy tells her one last little anecdote about how at Hailsham he liked to pretend that he was running through water after he'd scored a goal in football. Then, after a quick kiss, Kathy drives away.
- Kathy tells us that a few days ago she was talking with a donor about memories. Nowadays, she really holds the memories of Tommy and Ruth near and dear to her heart, especially with them gone.
- She also holds onto memories of Hailsham, even though she's lost that place, too. Sometimes she still thinks she sees her old stomping ground when she's driving, even though she's not consciously looking for Hailsham.
- Soon Kathy won't be driving anymore. She won't even have chances to happen across buildings that look like Hailsham because she'll be in a donor center.
- But there was this one time fairly recently when she drove up to Norfolk again that stands out in her mind. It happened a few weeks after she learned that Tommy had completed.
- So we get the last flashback of the novel. While driving on a road that she didn't know, Kathy eventually stops the car and gets out. She stands next to a fence surrounding a field. The fence is filled with trash that's gotten stuck there.
- As Kathy looks at the horizon, she indulges in a "little fantasy thing" (23.49). She imagines that she's really in the lost-and-found bin of her whole life, that every person and thing that she's lost is right here in Norfolk. She pretends that Tommy appears on the horizon and waves to her.
- But then she stops her daydream, and never takes it any further.
- When she leaves this fence in Norfolk, Kathy is sad and teary, but not out-of-control sobbing. Instead, she just gets in the car "to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be" (23.49).
- Hand us the tissues, please. And a huge protest sign, too.