James drives back home from Toledo, repeating to himself that “it is not too late.” Marilyn’s car is not in the driveway, and he fears that she has run away again. In the house, he finds Hannah sitting alone, her eyes red from tears. Hannah explains that Marilyn is upstairs sleeping and that she told Marilyn James would come back. She doesn’t tell him that Nath is also home, after having been dropped off by a police car, smelling of alcohol but “strangely serene.” James sits down with Hannah, and she points at a white footprint on the ceiling, “unexplained and pointless and magical.” They giggle, and James plays a game with Hannah that he used to play with Lydia; he would walk around with Lydia on his back, saying “Where’s Lydia?” James becomes dizzy with the memory of Lydia, but is distracted by Hannah putting her arms around him and asking him to play again.
Hannah cannot replace Lydia; while they share characteristics, Hannah’s role in the family is decidedly different from Lydia’s, and her existence cannot mitigate the loss of Lydia. On the other hand, in this scene James sees that he has a chance to correct the mistakes he made as a father (and, by extension, as a husband) now that Lydia is gone. When he plays the game with Hannah, he returns to a more innocent, hopeful, and loving version of himself. The fact that the game involves pretend disappearance is perhaps a way of coping with the painful reality of Lydia’s absence.
When Marilyn comes downstairs, she finds James cradling Hannah, and remarks “you’re home.” James repeats that he is home. Marilyn kisses Hannah goodnight, and Hannah goes up to her room overwhelmed by a sense of comfort and peace. Downstairs, Marilyn tells James that she thought he had “gone,” and James says the same thing to her. After this point, James never talks to Louisa again. It takes time for the family to learn more about what really happened to Lydia, and for the tensions between James and Nath to subside. Slowly, they begin uncovering things they kept silent and hidden from each other over the years. In this moment, James and Marilyn lie together in bed, touching each other gently as if recognizing that they are both “fragile.” Marilyn feels happy to be lying in bed with James, but decides she must go and look in Lydia’s room one last time. She has a “vision” of Lydia lying on the bed sleeping, and treasures this sight even though she knows it is not real.
The Lee family’s process of healing is imperfect. All members of the family remain broken by the loss of Lydia. Marilyn still relies on the illusion of “seeing” Lydia in bed to give her comfort, and James behaves cruelly to Louisa in order to restore his relationship with Marilyn. However, it is clear from this passage that the Lees have reached a turning point in their ability to sit with their own grief. Rather than suppressing and denying the truth of what has happened, the family learns to confront it directly, finding support and solace in one another. Although the loss of Lydia can never be repaired, the relations between those left behind betray notes of optimism.
The next morning, Nath sees Jack across the road, walking his dog. Although Nath hasn’t eaten in 24 hours and is still wearing yesterday’s clothes, he runs out after Jack. As he darts out of the front door and toward the lake, Hannah follows him, shouting that Jack is not to blame. Nath yells at Jack that he “can’t hide forever,” and Jack apologizes to him again. It is clear that Jack thought Lydia told Nath about Jack’s secret love. He admits that he should have told Nath himself, but before he says anything more he notices that Nath is in need of someone—anyone—to blame for Lydia’s death. Without only a glance, Jack silently consents to be the object of Nath’s blame, and Nath punches him. Jack doesn’t fight back, and Nath punches him again until Jack’s nose begins to bleed. Hannah cries for Nath to stop, pushing him away. Nath lets himself fall off the dock and into the water.
In this scene, Jack expresses his love for Nath in the same way that Lydia did for her parents—by pretending to be what Nath wanted him to be. Of course, Jack knows he is innocent and does not deserve to be attacked by Nath, but he can see that Nath is so intent on having someone to blame for Lydia’s death that he sacrifices himself in order to give Nath a moment of satisfaction. Meanwhile, by pushing Nath into the lake, Hannah both repeats what Nath originally did to Lydia and then what Lydia did to herself. Nath’s old self “disappears” in the water, but unlike Lydia he has a chance to be reborn.
In the water, Nath thinks of Lydia, falling beneath the surface to the bottom of the lake. He wants to feel himself sinking, to experience firsthand what Lydia went through, but his body reacts instinctively and pushes him up to the surface. He realizes that he can only guess what was inside Lydia’s mind and never know for sure. Both Jack and Hannah are peering into the water, and he can see Jack’s hands stretched out toward him. He envisions himself taking Jack’s hands and the three of them walking home together, bruised and emotionally wrecked but “strangely aglow.” His thoughts stretch further into the future, imagining James becoming more at ease with his identity, Hannah growing up to resemble Lydia, himself looking down at the earth from space and thinking of his missing sister. There will be so many things he will want to tell Lydia. In this moment, he swims toward Jack’s outstretched arms and focuses on Hannah, not wanting to “lose sight of her face.”
The tone of the book’s final passage is surprisingly—if cautiously—optimistic. In the water, Nath comes to accept that there will forever be things about Lydia that he doesn’t know, in the same way that there will be millions of things that he will never be able to tell her. There is no resolution that will mitigate this profound loss, but in losing Lydia he and the other characters are able to find greater happiness in their own lives. Although Lydia failed to be reborn by jumping into the lake, her death gives the gift of symbolic rebirth to her family. While Lydia is gone forever, each of the surviving Lees has been given a new chance to remake themselves and grow closer to one another.