It is autumn, and Arun is packing his bags to return to college. The return of students brings life back into the town that was so empty for the summer, and Arun enjoys the return to normalcy. At the Patton’s house, Melanie has left to receive treatment at a temporary recovery home in the Berkshires, for teen girls with mental and emotional illnesses. Reports sent home tell the Patton’s that Melanie is making friends, playing tennis, and beginning to eat again without throwing up.
The Patton’s may have fallen apart together, but they must find their peace individually. The solution to Melanie’s sickness must be found outside of her family. By sending her to a facility for treatment, they show for the first time that they take her needs seriously, and that they are willing to make sacrifices to help her recover her health.
Mr. Patton has taken on a night job to pay the bills for Melanie, and Mrs. Patton has stopped sunbathing, now letting the kitchen go bare while she tidies Melanie’s room, on her knees, and seeks out new age spiritual literature and programs. Rod has won a football scholarship. Arun has just received the box with a brown shawl and a box of tea that his sister Uma prepared and sent to him, but he has no room in his bags for it. He gives both items as gifts to Mrs. Patton, wrapping the shawl around her shoulders, as he tells her that he is leaving now. Mrs. Patton warmly wraps the shawl around herself as Arun quietly sneaks out.
Mrs. Patton cleans her daughter’s room on her knees as an act of penance and atonement. Her newfound spirituality reflects awareness that she must also find a new way for herself, too, though she does so in a typically American consumerist way. The shawl and tea from Uma offer to weigh Arun down with strings from his heavy family ties in India. By giving the gifts to Mrs. Patton, he frees himself from carrying the weight of his own family guilt. It is also a sad symbol of Uma’s unlived life. Arun will go on, but he will leave Uma behind.