Three years later, sixteen-year-old Jude is standing next to a sculpture she’s made in the studio at CSA. She has spent all morning crawling around in a clover patch looking for a four-leaf clover—she read in Grandma Sweetwine’s “bible” that “a person in possession of a four-leaf clover is able to thwart all sinister forces,” and wanted some protection on her critique day. Today, Jude is showing her fellow classmates on the sculpture track her eighth self-portrait: an abstract, broken, glued-together blob.
As the timeline shifts ahead, Nelson disorients her readers by creating a great contrast between where Noah’s story leaves off and where Jude picks up. At the end of Noah’s story, Jude was feeling desperately insecure about her artistic skills—now, she is at a prestigious art school showing off her original creations.
As Sandy Ellis, the clay instructor at CSA, begins facilitating Jude’s critique, Jude scans her classmates’ faces. Noah is not among them, and she knows that he belongs here, not her. No one speaks up to offer any praise or criticism of Jude’s work, and she looks quietly at her watch—Mom’s old watch, which Mom was wearing when, two years ago, her car sailed off a cliff, resulting in her death.
What’s even more disorienting about this timeline is the jarring realization that Dianna is dead, and that Noah—who was bursting with talent at thirteen—does not have a place alongside Jude at CSA. Nelson is setting up mysteries she will spend the rest of the novel unraveling.
Sandy encourages the class to offer some thoughts about “CJ’s” project. Jude reveals that everyone at CSA calls her CJ—short for “Calamity Jude”—because her work has a tendency to fall apart or mysteriously take “flying leaps off the shelves.” Her bad luck confounds her other classmates—but Jude knows she is being haunted by Mom.
Jude’s new identity comes with a new nickname—but even though she’s different from who she was at thirteen, she cannot escape the fear that she’s being haunted by Dianna, just as Dianna always warned.
One of Jude’s classmates—a boy named Caleb she would think was hot if she weren’t in the midst of a “boy boycott”—speaks up and says that it’s impossible to critique “CJ’s” work because it’s always mangled. Another one of Jude’s classmates piles on, calling her work unintentional and careless. Sandy leads the class into a discussion about the role of intentionality in art, as Jude hears Grandma Sweetwine’s voice whispering to her. Mom breaks Jude’s art, but Grandma Sweetwine is the “good cop” of Jude’s ghost world.
Jude has become veritably obsessed with the world of the supernatural—not only does she believe in ghosts, but she actively communicates with the spirit of her deceased grandma.
For the rest of class, Jude’s classmates continue skewering her work. Towards the end of the critique, as one of Jude’s classmates delivers the closing, the table on which Broken Me-Blob No. 8 sits gives way, and the blob falls to the floor and shatters into pieces. As Jude resignedly sweeps up the pieces, Sandy asks her to come see him in his office after class.
Jude does seem to have a dark cloud over her head, following her around—the bad luck and “hauntings” she believes to be part of her life are things she must contend with in some form every day.
In Sandy’s office, Jude stares at a print of Michelangelo’s David hanging on the wall. Sandy remarks that Jude’s mother’s biography of Michelangelo was “fearless” before asking Jude to talk to him about what’s going on. Jude doesn’t say anything. Sandy warns Jude that even though she’s been going through a hard time, if she doesn’t pass a studio class, she could be expelled. He reminds her of the young artists across the country who’d give anything for her spot at CSA, but Jude already knows this—she believes that Mom’s ghost is breaking everything she makes to remind her how much Noah deserves her place.
This passage shows that Jude knows she’s a fish out of water at CSA—and carries around an enormous amount of grief and guilt every single day of her life.
Jude admits that she doesn’t belong at CSA, and actually asks Sandy to give her spot to someone else. He reminds her of the “joyful, whimsical” sand women who were part of her admissions portfolio, but Jude is confused—she didn’t send any of her sand sculptures in with her application. She made sure that no one ever saw them—but now begins to wonder whether Noah could have photographed them. She recalls how when she was admitted and Noah wasn’t, he destroyed everything he’d ever made—and he hasn’t drawn, painted or made any art since.
Jude reveals that as her artistic identity has blossomed, Noah’s has decayed. This ties in themes of identity and codependency, as well as grief and guilt, as Nelson examines the effect loss has had on the Sweetwine siblings.
Sandy urges Jude to get back to basics and focus on what she needs to say through her art. Jude insists there’s nothing she wants or needs to say, but when she looks back at the David poster, she is hit with a flash of inspiration. She retracts her statement and tells Sandy that there is, in fact, something she needs to make—but she needs to make it out of stone. Jude reasons that if she makes something out of stone, Mom won’t be able to break it so easily—and maybe, just maybe, she’ll be able to actually communicate with Mom’s ghost, and get the spirit to “forgive” her.
Jude is at her lowest point when she receives the flash of inspiration she needs to save her career at CSA—and possibly her sanity—by trying to communicate with the spirit rather than deny its existence.
Sandy tells Jude that if she wants to work in stone, she’ll need to mentor with someone outside of school. He knows that a “master carver” lives locally, but doesn’t take on students anymore. Sandy mentions that Jude’s mother actually wrote about this particular carver for an art magazine, and urges Jude to look up the article. Sandy insists on trying to contact the man before Jude does—if the sculptor agrees to take Jude on, Jude can visit him after winter break. Sandy writes a name and address on a piece of paper and passes it across his desk to Jude.
Sandy clearly believes in Jude and wants to help her. This shows that after all of her insecurity about her own abilities, Jude is actually a talented artist, and there are people who want to support her growth.
Jude wanders through the foggy streets of Lost Cove towards the address where the “master carver” Guillermo Garcia’s studio is, determined to ignore Sandy’s advice and talk to him herself. She has spent all afternoon reading articles on the internet about Garcia and his work—he is often described as “The Rock Star of the Sculpture World.” As she walks, Jude can hear Grandma Sweetwine chastising her for her appearance—Jude wears hoodies and baggy pants as part of her boy boycott, determined to ward off “suitors” through her imposing getup. Grandma Sweetwine urges Jude to stop dressing like a “rutabaga” and grow her hair back, but Jude waves her off.
Jude, who was a blossoming social butterfly at the start of the novel, has over the last three years decided to cover herself up as much as she can—not just to ward off boys, but to hide herself away from the larger world and retreat into the one inside her head, just as Noah did in the novel’s first chapter.
Cold, anxious, and damp, Jude begins growing nervous about how to approach Guillermo Garcia. She spots a church at the end of the block, and decides to go inside to gather her thoughts and warm up. In the pews, Jude tries to focus quietly on what she should say to Garcia, but a noise startles her. A young man has knocked a candlestick off of an altar, and, in an English accent, accuses Jude of “scaring” him. The English guy prattles on and on as he lights the candle. Jude stares at him—he has a crooked smile, two different colored eyes, two scars on his face, and is “wild-looking” and “hot.” Jude recalls a line from Grandma Sweetwine’s bible, which states that “Any marked peculiarity in the face indicates a similar peculiarity of disposition.”
When confronted with something intimidating—in this case, one of the “suitors” Jude is working so hard to keep at bay—she turns to her grandmother’s superstitions and aphorisms the same way Noah turned to the invisible museum when he was younger.
The English guy apologizes for startling Jude in return, and explains that he was taking photographs of the church. As he points his camera at Jude, she screams out a “No”—she believes, because of Grandma’s bible, that “every picture taken of you reduces your spirit and shortens your life.” Even though the young man seems “familiar” to Jude somehow, she doesn’t want to let him take her picture.
This passage shows that Jude’s attachment to the aphorisms is staunch and intense, preventing her from growing or expanding her social circle.
The English guy says Jude’s camera shyness is a shame—he thinks she looks like an “angel” sitting in the pews, albeit one dressed in borrowed men’s clothing. Jude is mesmerized and flattered. The guy asks one more time if he can take Jude’s picture, and this time, she agrees. As he begins snapping rapid-fire photos of her, Jude can hear the guy say, under his breath, “You’re her.” Jude asks the young man what he means, but he quickly finishes shooting her, gathers up his things, and leaves.
Jude has a moment of weakness, and allows a boy to get close to her for the first time in a long time. She is intrigued by the almost mystical air about him, and this is perhaps one of the reasons she lets her guard down a bit.
As Jude leaves the church, she chastises herself for almost letting her guard down fully with a boy. Jude reflects on what happened the last time she did—years ago, she lost her virginity on the beach to Zephyr, a guy four years older than her. Jude was ambivalent about consenting to the act, and felt “buried in [her] own silence” during the ordeal. Right after, she found out that her mother died. For Jude, her boy boycott isn’t an act of whimsy—boys, to her, literally signal death.
The trauma of Jude’s loss and the unenjoyable experience of her first sexual encounter—and the fact that she wasn’t there for her family when they needed her because she was busy exploring her own sexual identity—has created a deeply negative association where sex and romance are concerned.
Soon, Jude is standing in front of the address where Guillermo Garcia’s studio is located. Grandma Sweetwine has disappeared, and Jude is alone. She knocks at the door several times before she gets an answer. When the door finally creaks open, a large man with thick black curls and a huge beard answers the door. His hands are thick with calluses, and though Jude realizes this man must be Garcia, she refuses to believe that this man is the “rock star” of the sculpture world. He smells as if he’s been drinking and looks as if he’s been asleep for “several centuries.”
Jude is desperate for help with her art—and when she encounters Garcia in his drunken, haggard state, she is more than a little frightened and discouraged.
Garcia orders Jude to go away and then closes the door on her. Jude, frightened but determined, knocks again. This time, when the door swings open, the English guy from the church is standing on the other side. He seems surprised to see her, but warns her that now isn’t a good time—indeed, at that moment, Jude hears Garcia screaming in Spanish and throwing something heavy across the room. The young English guy apologizes to Jude before closing the door in her face once again.
One of the recurring ideas throughout the novel is that of fated connections and destiny as a collision course—everything in the book is interconnected, and Nelson shows this through this passage.
Jude heads down to the beach to wait in the brush for Noah. He comes here often to cliff-dive—a mutual friend, Heather, texts Jude to warn her when Noah is on his way. Two years ago, Jude had to save Noah from a rip tide in the weeks after their mother died, and both of them almost lost their live in the struggle against the waves.
This passage introduces readers to the fact that Noah has, since his mother’s death, become obsessed with risky and dangerous behavior. Jude’s traumas have caused her to retreat into herself—but Noah’s seem to launch him out of himself, though not exactly in a good way.
Noah and his friend Heather arrive at the beach, and Jude watches as Noah jumps from the cliff and flies through the air. She does a double take as he seems to hover just above the water’s surface before breaking it. Jude and Grandma Sweetwine agree that Noah, in that moment, looks like one of his own drawings. In the years since Mom’s death, Noah has dropped art and become totally normal in every way—except for the cliff diving. Noah hits the water, and Jude holds her breath as she watches for signs of distress, but moments later he is scrambling up the beach. Jude wishes she could run to Noah, grab his hand, and travel with him backwards through time.
As Jude watches nervously, Noah accomplishes an almost supernatural feat. This passage calls into question the role of magic in both Noah and Jude’s present lives—and also examines the very different ways the two of them are grappling with the traumas of the last few years.