It’s Sunday, and the church holds a huge potluck. Ginny and Rose wear their best clothes and go to church, where they find Larry, looking oddly submissive and weak. Larry and Harold wander around the potluck together, greeting various people they know. Rose doesn’t speak to Larry directly, but she learns that he’s been telling people about homes for the elderly, complaining that “bad children” send their parents to such places. Rose tells Ginny that Larry is making it look like his daughters are plotting against him.
In this chapter, Rose and Ginny try to confront their father, only to find that their father is getting the moral high ground because of his standing in the community. He’s been telling everybody who will listen about his daughters’ “cruel” behavior, and as a result, almost everybody in town has come to believe that Ginny and Rose are plotting against him.
Finally, Larry comes to speak with Rose and Ginny. He immediately launches into a description of homes for the elderly, insisting that the conditions are horrible. Then he rejoins Harold and walks away. Shaken, Rose insists that Larry is trying his hardest to embarrass his daughters, and tells Ginny that they need to humiliate him in return—teach him how weak and powerless he is. Ginny is frightened of what Rose is saying, but also finds it “intoxicating.”
Larry preempts Rose and Ginny’s conversation with a long, rambling speech about homes for the elderly; nevertheless, Rose and Ginny haven’t been planning to throw in such a place (at least not vocally). Smiley wants us to question who the “villain” of the novel is—or if there really is a villain. Rose and Ginny are intoxicated by the possibility of getting revenge on their father, and yet they’re also obviously their father’s victims.
At the potluck, Ginny runs into Jess. Jess reports that his brother Loren went into Mason City. In the meantime, Jess has been exploring organic farming in more detail—he’s sure that organic farming will bring health and happiness to anyone who eats his crops.
Jess continues to pursue his dreams for farming, albeit with a hippie “twist” (in the 70s organic farming was considered much more radical than it is today).
Everybody takes food and sits down to enjoy the meal. Rose and Ginny sit near Larry and Harold and try to make conversation with their father, but he ignores them. Harold says that Rose and Ginny are a “couple of bitches” for throwing their father out in the middle of a storm.
Harold continues to insult Ginny and Rose, taking Larry’s side. It’s telling that Harold, Larry’s old rival, sides with Larry. His bond as a farmer, with Larry, is far stronger than his bond with Rose and Ginny—and perhaps more importantly, he automatically sides with the man, not the women.
Rose and Ginny leave the potluck—Harold Clark’s insults have left them unable to talk to their father. The sisters feel that they’re fleeing—both from their father and from the entire community. Ginny wonders if she and Rose wouldn’t be better off if they just left their community altogether and became waitresses in the Twin Cities.