Mid-morning on Sunday, Kate shows up at Violet’s house and asks if she’s heard from Finch. She explains that Finch has been checking in on Saturdays, but they didn’t hear from him yesterday—and then they got a weird email from him earlier. Violet feels a bit jealous as she reads the email. In it, Finch writes about going to a pizza place in Indianapolis with his whole family. He recalls everyone being happy. He tells Finch’s mom that she’s not old, tells Decca that tough words can be beautiful, and warns Kate to be careful with her heart. Violet doesn’t know what to make of it.
Finch seems to have very purposefully written this email to his family in a cryptic way. This gives Finch power in this situation—whatever’s going on, he’s able to control what his family does or doesn’t know about it. However, given that readers are aware of Finch’s suicidal thoughts, it’s possible to see this as a potential goodbye note to his family.
Violet suddenly feels breathless, and Violet’s mom comes around the corner and looks concerned. Violet hugs her mom and then goes upstairs to log onto Facebook. She finds a message from Finch that he sent a few minutes after he sent the email to his family. He says that “the words are written in The Waves.” Finch includes a passage about “shining in the dark” and being prepared. He writes, “I am rooted, but I flow…‘Come,’ I say, ‘come.’” Violet writes back, “‘Stay,’ I say, ‘stay.’” She calls Finch, and when he doesn’t answer, she calls Brenda. Brenda also received an email that said that a guy will love Brenda for who she is. Charlie also got a weird email, seemingly saying goodbye. Something is wrong.
Especially considered alongside the Facebook message to Violet and the emails to Brenda and Charlie, it seems more and more likely that Finch is saying goodbye to his loved ones—he may be preparing to commit suicide. But again, because Finch’s writing is so cryptic and purposefully cagey about what exactly is going on, none of his loved ones are able to figure out exactly what’s happening. Violet may only feel so breathless and concerned because she alone realized how unwell Finch was before he disappeared.
Violet drives to Finch’s house. Finch’s mom starts crying as soon as she sees Violet and wraps her in a tight hug. Violet asks to speak to Kate alone. On the patio, Violet tells Kate about the emails to her, Brenda, and Charlie. Kate reads the messages and is confused. Violet shows her a copy of The Waves and notes that Finch took the lines out of order, putting them together in his own way. Kate is perplexed. Suddenly, she says that Finch is supposed to go to NYU in the fall; he got early acceptance and never told anyone. He might be in New York. Kate only knows about NYU because she happened to get the voicemail from someone in admissions. Kate also says she never got any messages from Violet’s mom—Finch must have erased them.
The fact that Finch took lines from The Waves out of order and put them back together in a new way illustrates another way that people can connect with literature. Rearranging the text like this allows Finch to create his own meaning. However, though it seems like he expects Violet to grasp the significance of his message, she’s clearly just as perplexed as Kate is. When Kate mentions that Finch is accepted to NYU, she reveals how intelligent and gifted he is. But because of Finch’s mental illness, he isn’t able to apply himself in school or look forward to something like college.
Back inside, Violet notices Decca arranging pieces of paper on the floor, just like Finch did with his sticky notes. Violet asks to look at Finch’s room, and Kate tells her to go ahead. It still smells like Finch, and it looks untouched. Violet digs through his drawers and then goes into his closet. She puts a black T-shirt of Finch’s into her purse and then sits down. Finch’s closet seems like a black hole—he disappeared into it. Violet looks around and notices that the wall she’s sitting against is also covered in sticky notes. The two lines of words seem jumbled, but Violet rearranges them until she recognizes them. She ends up with: “There was nothing to make him last a long time” and “Go to the water if it suits thee there.”
The fact that Finch’s room looks untouched suggests that Violet is the only person who has searched it looking for clues—another indictment of his family’s lack of concern. As Violet discovers the second wall of sticky notes, it seems like Finch left them there explicitly for her to decipher them as she does here. He’s now using their shared love of language to leave her a message. It’s particularly ominous that he mentions going to the water, since he often associates water with death.
Violet goes back downstairs to find that Kate has left to look for Finch. Violet asks Finch’s mom to follow her back upstairs. When they get into Finch’s room, Finch’s mom is confused as to when he painted it blue. Violet leads her into the closet, and Finch’s mom recognizes the first line of sticky notes: it’s what Finch said when the cardinal died. The second line is from The Waves. Violet thinks he’s gone someplace they wandered where there was water. Violet offers to give Finch’s mom directions to several places, but Finch’s mom turns to her and asks Violet to go. Sobbing, she asks Violet to bring Finch home.
Again, it’s telling that Finch’s mom had no idea Finch painted his room blue—she hasn’t been in the room recently, and she’s not involved in her son’s life enough to know about major changes like this. But importantly, she can identify the first line as being related to the cardinal’s death. And she seems to realize that the implication of this is ominous—Finch seems to have thought of the cardinal’s death as a sort of inevitable suicide. And again, given that he associates water with death, this suggests that Finch is in danger.