Study Guide

The History of Love Chapter 8: Flood

By Nicole Krauss

Chapter 8: Flood

  • Alma Singer's uncle Julian comes to stay with them in Brooklyn. Bird sleeps in her bed, and she sleeps on the floor.
  • She starts searching for Alma Mereminski.
  • Misha wonders why she's so sure Alma Mereminski is a real person (good point).
  • Things start to get awkward between Alma and Misha because they like each other and don't know how to act anymore: flirting, fighting, back to flirting. It must be hormones.
  • Misha keeps doubting, this time wondering how Alma is so sure that, even if the other Alma left Poland for America, she would have come to New York.
  • Well, Alma doesn't have a good answer.
  • They're lying in Misha's bedroom in his parents' house. His parents are arguing outside the door. Misha kisses her. It doesn't go well—they end up crashing faces, licking each other's lips, and other embarrassing teenage stuff.
  • Misha's parents go on fighting.
  • Alma sits up and blurts out that she likes someone else, even though it isn't true, and she immediately regrets it.
  • They don't speak for weeks.
  • Alma tries to work on a second letter to Jacob Marcus, but can't write anything she's happy with.
  • It occurs to her that Alma Mereminski might be dead, in which case there must at least be a record of her passing somewhere.
  • It starts raining. Bird comes into the house and says mysteriously, "It's starting" (8.38).
  • Uncle Julian asks Alma if she's seen Bird's clubhouse, which is apparently really impressive.
  • She goes to the New York City Municipal Archives, which keeps records of births and deaths. There's nothing there, but it turns out that they only house records before 1948. So she goes to the New York City Department of Health, Division of Vital Records.
  • Alma thinks that marrying her father was the worst mistake her mother ever made.
  • It's still raining outside. Alma walks past the vacant lot where Bird has been building... something. It's six feet tall. There's a pole in the middle, like a flagpole, but with no flag.
  • Alma calls Misha from a payphone and asks if he wants to hang out that night. He has a date. Alma is mad jealous, yo.
  • She spends two hours with the death records, but finds nothing.
  • Uncle Julian wakes up Alma in the middle of the night to ask: 1) how old she is, and 2) what she wants to be when she grows up. The answers: she's almost fifteen, and she says she wants to be a painter (because she knows that's what Julian wants to hear).
  • Alma lies awake thinking about Misha and his date, and her parents, and wonders why Zvi Litvinoff moved to Chile and married Rosa instead of marrying Alma. A lot's on her mind.
  • Then she has a little epiphany: Alma must have gotten married, and that's why she couldn't find her in the death records—she would have changed her name.
  • She turns on her flashlight to write in her notebook and spots something stuck in between the bed frame and the wall. It has the Hebrew word for God on the outside, and next to that it says "PRIVATE." It's Bird's journal—score. She opens it and starts to read.
  • The first entry she reads is from April, right after Alma begged Bird to try to act normal. It's his first day being normal, he writes, meaning that he hasn't climbed on top of any buildings, or written God's name anywhere, or quoted the Torah.
  • It also includes not mentioning that he might be the Messiah.
  • He falls off a ladder but doesn't get hurt, which he thinks is because God won't let him be harmed, because he's a lamed vovnik (i.e., one of the "thirty-sixers" mentioned earlier).
  • Alma skips ahead in the journal and reads from June. Bird writes that he has made almost $300 selling lemonade, but still needs another $400. He doesn't say what for.
  • He mentions that he's building something very special, but he's worried that it might start raining before he's finished. He needs lots of Styrofoam because this thing he's building has to be able to float.
  • The reason he's building this thing is because there's going to be a flood.
  • Alma looks up from the book and notices that it's still raining.