Study Guide

The Rules of Survival The Home

By Nancy Werlin

The Home

That particular night, I did it. I kept us out of the way, unnoticed. So, in fact, you could say that my very first memory is one of success. Of triumph. Of watching Callie go back to sleep safely, because I had made sure she hadn't called attention to us while our mother was angry. (3.8)

Home is certainly not a safe place for the Walsh kids. Matthew's very first memory is of hiding out from his angry, violent mother and trying to keep his baby sister safe. How messed up is that?

Callie and I stayed up that Saturday night, wanting to be awake when Nikki came home—she didn't, by the way, until well into the morning—in case she was still mad at you about the prayer for Murdoch. (18.1)

Matthew and Callie can't just relax when they're at home, especially when they know Nikki is coming home later. They can't even go to bed when they want to because they're afraid that she'll arrive drunk and want to beat up Emmy.

We barely had time to throw together a just-the-kids-having-breakfast scene. You cooperated with that, at least. You were in your booster seat at the table, chomping on Froot Loops, when Nikki came in, pulling a large man behind her by the hand. (20.5)

Instead of getting to be themselves at home, the Walsh kids have to put on an act like they're happy, grateful sitcom children. When Nikki comes home, they have to make it look like everything is okay.

When I got home from school she was sitting on the floor of the living room renewing her toenail polish. She pointed at me with the brush from her polish, and I hastily left the room. But the tension had mounted—I sensed it—and I stayed in our room for the remainder of the afternoon, doing homework and not even talking to Callie or to you. (30.2)

Home is a place where Matthew feels the need to constantly hide from his mother's wrath. He spends most of his time tense and worried that he's going to get beaten up… or that worse, she'll go after one of his sisters. It's really no way to live.

"You too." she said to me." Out." Then she was in my face, leaning in, screaming. And crying again. "You sneaking little spy, get out! I don't care where you go. But you don't live here anymore! Do you understand? Get out! I don't want you in my home!" (30.23)

Apparently, Nikki doesn't have an open doors and open arms policy when it comes to her kids. Instead of accepting them no matter what, she's pretty much ready to kick them to the curb if they step out of line.

I stared at him. What was he saying? That he'd be a rich nurse practitioner—which I knew was almost like a doctor—and we could all live with him? That he wanted to do that?

Who was this man? (33.43-44)

You can't blame Matthew for being a bit skeptical when Ben comes to him and claims that he's ready to take on fatherhood. After all, this man hasn't really been around for all of their lives… and now he's saying that he wants to build a home for all three of the kids? Can it be?

The doors of Aunt Bobbie's apartment, and of ours, were thrown open, and the two floors felt like one big space, one big house. (35.3)

The kids have never felt as much as home in their house as they do swhen Nikki goes to jail. Sadly enough, her imprisonment makes it easier for them to enjoy themselves and feel like normal, happy kids running around the house.

My new room was directly underneath Nikki's room in the upstairs apartment, and was the exact same size and shape, a rectangle with two tall windows. But the feeling couldn't have been more different. (41.1)

Matthew is feeling pretty blessed when he moves in with Aunt Bobbie. It may be a bit close to Nikki for comfort, but he doesn't care. What matters is that she's no longer in control. He has his own space now.

Aunt Bobbie occasionally snored in the bedroom next door, and it was the most comforting sound I had ever heard. The thought drifted across my mind that I wouldn't mind, someday, if I fell in love with a girl who snored. That it would mean peace to me. (41.4)

You know that things were really bad at Nikki's house when Matthew starts waxing poetic about Aunt Bobbie's snoring. He's so glad to be out from under his mother's roof that he even loves the sound of Aunt Bobbie's snores.

It turned out that Ben was making spaghetti with meatballs. I'd had some soup at Bobbie's just before Murdoch came to get me, but as I sniffed the air, I discovered that I was hungry again. Hungry and almost happy, for a little while. (42.45)

Aunt Bobbie and Ben have both taken their new domestic tasks to heart. When Matthew visits the girls at Ben's new place, he's struck by how settled in they are in their new home. Ben's even happily cooking in the kitchen like he's been doing this dad thing his whole life.