Finch knows something is wrong the moment he walks into Finch’s dad and Rosemarie’s house on Sunday. Rosemarie explains that Finch’s dad is in the basement, and Finch tells Kate that he’ll talk to their dad. They all know their dad must be in one of “his moods.” Finch finds his dad watching sports, surrounded by his hockey trophies. He walks into his dad’s line of sight, startling him, and says that his original family is here—and they don’t want to hang out with his new wife and kid. For once, Finch isn’t afraid of his dad. Finch’s dad slams his beer down hard enough to shatter the bottle, flies off the couch, and slams Finch into the wall. The room spins, and Finch runs upstairs. Later, when Finch’s dad joins everyone for dinner, he acts like nothing is wrong.
This passage characterizes Finch’s dad as violent, dangerous, and perhaps mired in grief over his former hockey career. In the last chapter Finch proposed the idea of “built-in endings” for things, which suggests that Finch may have come up with that idea after seeing his father cope poorly with life changes. Though Finch is struggling to live happily, he nevertheless seems to be trying to adapt and cope in healthier ways than his parents have.
When Finch, Kate, and Decca get back home, Finch kisses Finch’s mom and says he’s going out. He gets into Little Bastard and starts the engine but doesn’t open the garage door. His hands are shaking. Finch has wanted to kill Finch’s dad since his dad first sent his mom to the hospital. A year after that, Finch ended up in the hospital after one of his dad’s “moods.”
Here, the novel confirms that Finch’s dad is violent to the point of being dangerous to those around him. This also starts to explain why Finch feels so compelled to protect his mom from his own mental health issues: he doesn’t want to hurt her the way his dad hurt them.
Car exhaust suicide used to be common in the U.S., but it’s gotten rarer in recent years. Finch forces his mind to go blank, but he remembers how one man who tried to kill himself this way unwittingly killed his family members when they tried to save him. He thinks of his mom and sisters, opens the garage door, and drives, feeling like a hero. But a voice inside tells Finch he’s actually just a coward.
Finch cares deeply about the people around him. Here, he starts to realize that killing himself could put his family members in danger—this is the last thing Finch wants. His struggle to decide whether he’s a hero or a coward for not killing himself shows just how much Finch struggles to understand his own thoughts on suicide. On one hand, he thinks suicide is noble—but he also seems to realize that killing himself would have major consequences for his loved ones.
A few months ago, when things got really bad, Finch drove to French Lick, a resort with a healing spring. He drank the spring water to “fix the dark, slow churning” in his mind and felt great until he woke up in the morning. When Finch asked an employee about it, the employee told him to try Mudlavia, a shuttered resort and spring that’s supposedly “the real deal.” Presently, Finch heads for Mudlavia, two and a half hours away, and traipses through the crumbling hotel. It doesn’t feel healing. Then, he follows the sound of water until he gets to a rushing stream that looks more alive than anything else. Finch wades in and drinks. He fills a water bottle and then floats in the stream.
Finch sees water as representing both life and death. He fixates on Virginia Woolf’s suicide in part because she drowned—proof that water can kill. But here, he describes the stream as “alive” and the water as “healing,” suggesting that water—like Finch himself—is multifaceted and contains both good and bad elements. And at this point, the fact that Finch is looking for a healing spring suggests that he's trying to improve his mental health in one of the few ways that makes sense to him.
When Finch gets home, Kate is on her way out. She asks Finch if he’s been with Violet and then says that Decca is upset, probably about Josh Raymond since they’re so close in age. Kate wonders if Josh Raymond is actually Finch’s dad’s son and points out that when Finch was that age, he was also small. As she heads out the door, she tells Finch to be careful with his heart.
Again, the question of whether Finch’s dad is Josh Raymond’s father seems to cause the family a great deal of distress. Though Finch seemed to conclude earlier that Josh Raymond isn’t his half-brother, Kate suggests that she’s not so sure. Having to think of Josh Raymond like this forces Finch to think of what he was like at eight years old, something that’s uncomfortable for him.
Finch lets himself into Decca’s room to make sure she’s okay. She’s sitting on the floor, cutting words out of various books from around the house. Finch notices her collection of scissors and asks what the rules are. She hands him a book and tells him to cut out “the mean parts and the bad words.” As Finch cuts, he tells Decca that life will get better. She tells him to be quiet. After a while, Finch asks about the stuff that’s just unpleasant but not totally mean. Decca says to cut those parts out too. She explains that the bad stuff shouldn’t be mixed in with the good. Finch gets it—it’s better to keep the unhappy stuff separate so it’s easier to keep an eye on it.
Decca is trying to make sense of all the confusing things in her life by controlling whether she sees words that are mean or nice. Her disinterest in Finch’s pep talk suggests that Decca doesn’t want to deal with the possibility that life contains both good and bad elements—for her to feel in control, things need to be either good or bad. Finch understands this because he separate words into good and bad in his mind as well. Previously, he imagined himself running from words like “worthless” and “freak” to stay awake—he was essentially doing the same thing that Decca does here.
Decca gets up to look for more books, and while she’s gone, Finch cuts out words and leaves “MAKE IT LOVELY” on Decca’s pillow. Then he takes the books to his room. Finch stops in the doorway—something feels different, though nothing seems to have changed. He tells himself he’s fine, takes a hot shower, and returns to his room. Finch decides that maybe he’s different. He returns to the bathroom, throws on some clothes, and studies his face in the mirror. It’s not his face. Back in his room, Finch flips through the books that are now exclusively happy. He pulls his comforter around him, reading the books. Finch wants to do this with Violet: give her only the good and get rid of the bad.
It's significant that Finch chooses to leave “make it lovely” on Decca’s pillow. Telling her to make it in particular suggests that Decca has control over how “it”—that is, her life—turns out. In other words, Finch purposefully chooses words that show Decca that she has control over how she sees and responds to events in her life. But Finch struggles to take his own advice: though he wants to give Violet only happiness, he seems unsure of how to “make it lovely” for them. And the growing sense that something is wrong also ominously suggests that Finch’s mental health is starting to decline.