At dinner the boys tell their father about Abra, and ask where their mother’s grave is. Adam tells them it is in the east, and that some people like to be buried where they were born. Adam asks the boys if they might like moving to the city to go to better schools. Aron likes the idea, because he knows Abra lives in Salinas. Cal wonders what would happen to their ranch. Adam tells them to think about it and sends them to bed.
Aron is already ready to move to the city in order to be closer to Abra. The reader should keep in mind that Catherine’s brothel is in Salinas—so there is an ominous note in Adam’s suggestion. Why would he consider moving his sons closer to their mother? The reader is asked to speculate about his possible motives.
Lee and Adam discuss the risks of moving to Salinas—the boys would be closer to their mother, and they might find out about her. Lee says that Adam shouldn’t hide the truth from his children: Lee’s father never hid anything from him. Lee then tells the story of his mother, who posed as a man in order to remain with his father and to sneak onto a ship bearing railroad workers from China across the Pacific to the United States. His father was worried for her, but also delighted not to be separated. She worked hard and grew strong just like the rest of the men. One day she told Lee’s father that she was pregnant, and they began to make plans for their escape. But Lee’s mother went into labor while she was pounding in a stake and the other working men—who had not seen or been with a woman in so long, who were crazy like animals—attacked her, ravaged her, and killed her. Almost as penance for their crime, they agreed to help raise Lee, and made him one of the best cared for babies that ever lived.
Lee believes that the boys ought to be told the truth about their mother—perhaps Adam agrees on some level, and that is why he is considering the move. The story of Lee’s parents is tremendously important. His mother defied convention and not only passed as a man but proved to be just as strong and as capable as one. Lee’s birth revealed his mother as a woman and the other men, giving into their base impulses, destroyed her. But their evil was followed by penance. They cared for Lee as if he was their own son. Depravity is followed by redemption, sin is followed by virtue.
That night Adam writes a letter to Charles—the first one in roughly ten years. He asks Charles to come see him—Charles is a good farmer, and he could make the garden that Adam failed to make. Adam sends the letter off and is already anxious for a reply.
Adam tries finally to get in touch with his brother after years of non-communication. He believes his brother can build the garden that he failed to build—he finds hope in family.