Jude sits at her computer, looking up information about Guillermo Garcia on the internet. Meanwhile, she sucks on a lemon, hoping to nip her crush on the English guy in the bud—Grandma’s bible dictates that “nothing curdles love in the heart like lemon on the tongue.” The ghost of Grandma Sweetwine teases Jude about her crush, but Jude is determined to keep her boy boycott “in full swing.”
This passage shows just how intensely Jude relies on the promises within Grandma Sweetwine’s bible—she really has faith in the power of lore and superstition to turn her “real” life around.
Jude finds some images of Garcia’s work, and is amazed by his stone sculptures. As she stares rapturously at the pictures, her concentration is interrupted by the sound of voices and footsteps in the hall—it is Noah and his friends. Jude wishes she had shut the door to her bedroom as they walk by and peer in at her nosily. As Noah’s friends from his high school cross-country team head into his bedroom, Noah doubles back and enters Jude’s room. She is uncomfortable—Noah hardly ever visits her in her room, and just being near him makes her nervous lately. She also feels guilty, believing that it was Noah who took the pictures of her sand women and submitted them to CSA on her behalf, only to wind up at the local public school himself.
Where Noah used to be the one intimidated by his sister’s friend and desperate to avoid them—lest they see how strange he was on the inside—the roles have been reversed, and now it is Jude who hides from company and avoids socializing. She is painfully aware of the strange switch that has taken place between her and her brother.
Noah asks Jude if she would be “cool” with him and his friends having a house party while their father’s away for the week. Jude can’t do anything but stare at her brother, whom she believes has undergone a “soul abduction.” She barely recognizes this version of Noah who hangs out with “dangerous gangs,” goes out with girls, and now, apparently, throws house parties. Noah asks Jude if she’s aware that she has a lemon in her mouth, and Jude realizes that Noah is just as “disturb[ed]” by her new interests and obsessions as she is by his. Before leaving her room, Noah urges her to give “that totally lame book”—meaning Grandma’s bible—a rest. Jude wonders if her and Noah’s personalities have “swapped bodies.”
This passage shows that not only have Jude and Noah swapped places ideologically or emotionally, but that this swap—and the distance between the two that has grown out of it—actually frightens and upsets Jude. Because Jude has been in her brother’s social butterfly shoes before, she knows the dangers of hanging out with this crowd—and of burying one’s true self deep in order to fit in.
Jude calls Noah out for finding her embarrassing, to which he pulls several beans and seeds from his pocket and shows them to Jude. Jude admits that she placed the “extremely protective” things in his pocket for good luck. She can’t believe that Noah finds her odd and embarrassing—especially since he has picked up some weird, dangerous habits as well, namely an obsession with jumping Devil’s Drop, the highest cliff in town, and a tendency to zone out and retreat into his head when he thinks no one is watching. The strangest, most private thing Noah does lately, though, is post a message to the website LostConnections, intended for Brian each and every week.
Though Noah is derisive of Jude’s obsession with superstition, lore, and herbal cures, he is hiding some equally bizarre obsessions of his own as a way of coping with the grief the last several years have brought.
Jude knows what was going on between Brian and Noah that fateful summer—she could see Noah’s “dreams [about Brian] outside of his body.” Now, Jude finds herself regretting that going into the closet with Brian at his going-away party wasn’t even the worst thing she ever did to Noah.
Though Jude and Noah were shown to be inseparable at the start of the novel, this passage demonstrates just how much deception has transpired between them.
Jude tells Noah to go ahead and throw the party. Noah asks her if she’ll come, but Jude insists she doesn’t do social events. Noah points out that she used to, but Jude doesn’t answer. All she can think about is how “if Mom came back, she wouldn’t be able to pick either of [them] out of a police lineup.”
Jude knows that she and her brother are becoming unrecognizable—not just to each other, but to themselves as well.
Benjamin appears in the doorway. Jude muses on how her dead parent is more present than her living one—Dad wanders the halls of their house like a ghost, hardly interacting with her or Noah and spending most of his time going on long walks to “think.” Every time Benjamin leaves the house, Jude is worried that someone will call the house with the news that “there’s been an accident.” Dianna died when she was on her way to see Dad—they’d been separated for a month, and he was living in a hotel when she left that afternoon to ask him to come home and so they could all be a family again. She never came home.
This revelation about the circumstances of Dianna’s death shows how grief, guilt, and fear have impacted the Sweetwine family. Jude’s anxiety, Noah’s recklessness, and Benjamin’s abject misery are all results of their inability to cope with the loss they have all suffered.
The parrot next door begins squawking about Ralph, and Benjamin, Noah, and Jude roll their eyes in unison. Jude’s dad begins asking her a question but stops and turns pale when he sees her computer screen—Jude notices that Noah has gone quiet, too. Looking back at the images of Garcia’s work, Jude remarks how “incredible” his sculptures are. Noah and Dad both make quick excuses, and leave Jude’s room.
There is something about Garcia’s work that startles Benjamin and Noah and makes them uncomfortable—Jude assumes it is the emotional impact of the sculptures, but the novel will go on to show that much more is afoot than meets the eye.
Jude opens her bedroom window for some fresh air—she is worried about both Dad and Noah and how poorly they seem to be doing in the wake of Mom’s death. When Jude smells the salty sea air, her memories take her back to a day two years ago when she had to save Noah from a riptide—she yanks her window shut again.
The grief and trauma Jude—and Noah—have suffered manifests itself in smells, sights, and memories, and both seem absolutely unable to escape the atmosphere of pain which permeates, now, every aspect of their lives.
A week later, Benjamin is out of town and Noah’s party is raging. Jude wants to escape the chaos of the party, and decides to head out to Guillermo Garcia’s studio to ask him, once and for all, to mentor her. As she sets off on foot down the road, she realizes that a foggy white-out is closing in on Lost Cove—still, she remains committed to reaching Garcia’s studio.
Just as Noah always chose art over making new friendships and interacting with others, Jude now does the same.
Once at Garcia’s, Jude sees that the lights in the rooms at the back of the building are on. She decides to peek into the studio by climbing the fire escape, and quietly shimmies her way up. As she looks in through the window at Garcia’s giant sculptures—all of which depict couples “hurling themselves at each other passionately”—she feels adrenaline flood her veins. She watches as Garcia enters the studio and moves towards a clay work-in-progress in the middle of the room. He begins talking to himself in Spanish, and Jude wonders if Garcia “has ghosts too.”
It is clear from Garcia’s passion as he works that his art is vital to him—and perhaps the only way he has of truly expressing himself. Jude—unlike Noah and Garcia—has not yet found the medium that will allow her to fully express herself, but she desperately wants to.
Jude is mesmerized as she watches Garcia deftly mold the clay. She recalls elements of the things she’s read about him online: he comes from a long line of gravestone cutters in Colombia and began carving as a young boy, soon drawing rumors in his village that he was enchanted or even possessed. Watching him work now, Jude believes he just might be.
Jude is willing to believe in the more supernatural elements of Garcia’s origin story because magic and the ethereal are not frightening to her, but exciting.
Jude remembers reading a line from an interview-slash-profile her mother did of Garcia for an art magazine: “He’s the kind of man who walks into a room and all the walls fall down.” Jude agrees with her mother’s assessment of the man. Jude watches for hours as Garcia works, and realizes that perhaps “the sculpture is making him.”
There is something else that draws Jude to Garcia—the fact that her mother once knew him. Jude, desperate to connect with the ghost of her mother, possibly sees this connection as something that will allow her to “get in touch” with Dianna sooner.
After returning home to sleep, Jude comes back to the fire escape early the next morning. Garcia is still in the studio—he hasn’t changed his clothes, and Jude wonders if he’s worked straight through the night. The clay sculpture appears finished, but looks very different from how it did when Jude left—it depicts a woman crawling out of a man’s chest, and gives Jude an “awful” feeling. Jude watches as Garcia stares at his own sculpture and cries. Aware of intruding on an intimate, painful moment, Jude decides to leave—as she does, she sees Garcia stand up and walk over to the sculpture, arms raised as if to destroy it. She shouts “No!” and Garcia turns to the window, shock and rage on his face.
In this passage, when Jude lays eyes on Guillermo’s twisted sculpture—which seems to encapsulate the feeling of losing someone, and the slow process of healing from the grief of loss—she knows that he has suffered something terrible. At the same time, the sculpture is as beautiful as it is frightening, and the idea that Garcia would destroy his own work scares Jude out of hiding.
Jude attempts to jump off the bottom fire escape and nearly falls on her face—until she feels a hand reach out and grab her. It is Garcia, who has come out the front door, and Jude stutters and stumbles over her words as she thanks him for saving her. Garcia begins ranting at Jude in Spanish—she is intimidated by the man’s size and rage, and begins apologizing for spying on him all night. Garcia is outraged that Jude has been watching him, but she soldiers on, and begins begging him to mentor her. She explains that she thinks Garcia might be a little bit magic, and also offers that she understands his grief—because she is grieving, too. After a long pause, the sculptor invites Jude inside for coffee.
Though Garcia is an imposing and, as Jude has seen, often unstable figure, there is something about their shared experience of a grief that large that unites them immediately. Garcia softens and allows Jude in, taking a leap of faith for what seems to be the first time in a long time.
Jude is slightly nervous as she follows Guillermo through the dark, dusty halls of his home and studio, but is once again elated and mesmerized when she enters Guillermo’s kitchen and sees one of his famous stone angels in the corner. She also sees sketches on the wall and finished paintings hanging all around the room—they depict love, lust, and bodies in amorous poses. Jude is spellbound, but, seeing no ring on Guillermo’s finger, wonders what has happened to him to make him so consumed by an obsession with seemingly lost or unrequited love.
Guillermo’s art intersects nearly perfectly with both Noah’s and Jude’s. Noah’s art is often meant to work through or ruminate on his fears related to love, lust, sex, and the impossibility of human connection; Jude’s clay blobs are raw, self-critical works tied to her grief and guilt. Guillermo’s work encapsulates all these feelings and more, and Jude longs to learn from him.
Jude begins telling Guillermo about the game she and Noah played as children, in which they divided up the world. She explains that Noah wound up with the trees, the sun, the stars, and the ocean, and Guillermo asks Jude if this is why she seems so sad. Jude is surprised by how at ease she feels in Guillermo’s presence—until a black cat runs through the room and into Guillermo’s arms. Black cats are terrible luck according to Grandma Sweetwine’s bible, and Guillermo jokingly tells Jude that she is “totally loca.”
Just as Jude is beginning to feel a real rapport and connection with Guillermo, the black cat comes along—and tests whether Jude will, in the face of real connection and the chance at transformation, cling to the superstitions that have provided comfort in a tough time or open herself up to something new and abandon her fears.
Guillermo begins cleaning up—he is covered in clay from his long night of work. Jude reluctantly plays with his “bad-luck” cat, Frida, as Guillermo washes his arms and hair in the sink. Jude becomes lost in memories of her mother, and even believes, for a moment, that she can hear her mother’s voice. She whispers to her mother’s ghost, letting it know that she can hear it, but soon the voice is gone.
Even as Jude prepares to let go of some of her superstitions, her connection to the world of magic and the supernatural remains strong.
Guillermo finishes washing up, and then takes Jude on a tour of the large studio space down the hall, where Guillermo’s giant rock sculptures live. Jude remarks that they make her feel tiny, and Guillermo himself admits that they make him feel “like an ant” as well.
Though an accomplished sculptor, Guillermo still feels intimidated by the power of works he himself has created—there is clearly great emotion encapsulated in each one.
Guillermo and Jude sit down for coffee, and Guillermo explains that when she came to him for the first time a few days ago, he was not in a good place. He explains that he’s not teaching anymore—he feels he has become indistinguishable from the stone people he carves. Jude blurts out that she feels the same—she worries her sadness and anger are calcifying her into rock. Guillermo reassures her that she’ll be okay, and Jude finds herself oddly warmed and comforted by Guillermo’s tenderness.
The fact that Guillermo and Jude both spend their days trying to suffuse lifeless substances with life and emotion—but are aware of the limits of such an endeavor, and know that at the end of the day cold, hard stone is still just that—bonds them together in this moment.
Guillermo goes on, explaining that all he wants is to work—he doesn’t know if he’ll ever teach again. Jude resignedly stands up and thanks Guillermo for his time. She begins crying as she turns to leave, though, and Guillermo asks her if the sculpture she wants to make is so necessary that it’s causing her to cry. Jude explodes, gasping that she needs to make this sculpture. Guillermo asks her if she’s certain; when she says she is, he instructs her to go home, rest, and come back the next afternoon with her portfolio and a sketchpad. As Jude smiles, Guillermo warns her that all of his students end up despising him.
Jude leaves Guillermo’s, elated that he has agreed to take her on as a student. As she walks down the street, a motorcycle screeches past her and comes to a stop just a few feet away—when the driver takes off his helmet, Jude sees that he is the English guy from the church. Jude struggles to put her “boy blinders” on as he greets her cheerfully. Jude chides him for his reckless driving, and he cheekily responds that he has “impulse-control issues.” Jude knows that by flirting with this guy that she’s getting herself in trouble—he seems “tailor-made to torture [her].”
Though Jude wants to stand strong in the face of temptation and maintain her “boy boycott,” the fact that the English guy keeps cropping up in her life and enticing her does smack a bit of destiny or fate—an idea that Jude can’t resist.
The English guy mentions that the photos he took of Jude in the church have been developed. He asks if Jude wants to see them, but she turns and walks away rather than answering. The young man calls out to her once more—he tells her he has a spare orange, and tosses it to her. Jude is baffled—according to Grandma Sweetwine’s bible, “If a boy gives a girl an orange, her love for him will multiply.” Jude catches the orange, but tosses it right back. The English guy hands her the orange once more. Though smitten by his good looks, she tries to give it back, but he scampers up the steps to Guillermo’s. Jude places the orange in his helmet, telling herself to “snap out of it” and reminding herself how serious her boy boycott is. She wonders if she can manage to “eat every last lemon in Lost Cove by morning.”
Jude is still clinging to superstitious wisdom as a way of staving off any potential feelings of love and attraction that might serve to distract from the overwhelming grief she feels. Jude is afraid to let herself really connect with another person—especially romantically.
The next afternoon, Jude lets herself into Guillermo’s and heads down the hall towards the studio. She is nervous—both to show Guillermo her portfolio, and to encounter the English guy once again. She has placed various talismans to ward off love, attention, and attraction in her front and back pockets. As she wanders down the hall, she hears sensuous moaning coming from one of the rooms—she worries that she has misread things, and that Guillermo and the English guy are lovers. She considers leaving, but as the moaning settles down, she decides to enter the studio—she finds Guillermo and the English guy playing chess and eating donuts.
This passage shows just how afraid Jude really is of anything to do with love and sex. She does not want any part of lust or romance—and is even uncomfortable with the possibility of witnessing it in others.
The English guy tosses yet another orange at Jude, and she catches it. He takes a bite of his donut and moans—Jude realizes that the moaning she heard was just a theatrical response to the pastry. Guillermo asks Jude if she’s met Oscar—with a flush of excitement at finally learning the English guy’s name, Jude admits that she has. Oscar, though, is confused as to how Jude and Guillermo have developed a rapport—Guillermo explains that Jude won him over after spying on him from the fire escape all night, just as Oscar won him over “long ago.”
As Jude begins entering Guillermo’s world, she realizes that this is not a space where art lives in isolation from human feelings and human relationships—Jude must consider whether she’s ready to let others in and allow them to influence her art, her feelings, and her life.
Oscar tells Jude that Guillermo saved his life once—a while ago, Guillermo found Oscar half-dead from pills and booze, sleeping in the park. Guillermo took the young man in, helped him get clean by encouraging him to go to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and got him into college. Realizing how much Oscar has endured in his short life, Jude wonders whether she has “pressed pause” and refused to soldier onwards in the face of her own grief. Looking at Guillermo and Oscar, Jude wishes she could be a part of the found-family they have formed together.
As Jude hears Oscar’s origin story, she encounters—for the first time—someone who has dealt with grief, pain, and defeat, and carved out a new life. Jude allows herself to consciously realize how her own stubborn attachment to grief is holding her back.
Jude eats a donut, and then Guillermo—addressing her as CJ—tells her it’s time to get to work. Jude asks Guillermo how he knows her “name,” and he tells her that Sandy from CSA left a message about her. Jude is about to tell Guillermo her real name, realizing that she hasn’t formally introduced herself, but decides against it—for once in her life, she doesn’t want to be known as “Dianna Sweetwine’s poor motherless daughter.”
For so long, Jude’s identity has been tied to other people. Now, as she prepares to embark on a new adventure, she wants to carve out this space for herself, and for once not lug the emotional baggage of her loss over this particular threshold.
Frida the cat climbs into Oscar’s lap, and he jokingly remarks that he has a way with women. Jude replies that she wouldn’t notice, as she’s on a “boy boycott.” Oscar, grinning, tells Jude that he accepts her “challenge.” He then stands up and begins taking off his clothes. Jude is both confused and scandalized, until Guillermo explains that Oscar is going to pose as their model today—they are not going to start with stone or clay, but rather with figure drawing. Guillermo believes that drawing is critical to sculpture.
It is almost as if fate has conspired to force Jude to confront her increasing attraction to Oscar time and time again—perhaps the supernatural is not all in Jude’s head after all.
Oscar heads down the hall to the drawing studio while Guillermo sits down and begins looking through Jude’s sketchbook. When Guillermo gets to the blobs, Jude explains that her dead mother’s ghost destroys everything she makes because she is mad at Jude. Guillermo asks if the sculpture Jude needs to make is for her mother, and Jude answers that it is.
Guillermo wants to understand Jude’s past, present, and future both as an artist and a human in order to figure out what motivates her, what frightens her, and what excites her.
Guillermo explains that when he looks at Jude’s blobs, he doesn’t see any of her in them—he wants for Jude to channel into her work the fearless, reckless girl who climbed up the fire escape at night. Guillermo tells Jude that if she wants to work with him, she needs to promise that she will put “that girl” into the sculpture she wants to make. Jude agrees.
Guillermo senses that Jude is holding back out of fear or stubbornness, and wants her to relinquish that part of herself and surrender to the truth of who she is, what she wants, and what she is capable of.
Guillermo explains that Jude needs to start with clay and practice rocks before she moves on to the real deal, and asks if Jude is planning on carving her mother. Jude tearfully explains that she has tried everything she can to get through to her mother, but nothing works—all her mother does is break whatever Jude makes. Jude fears that her mother will try to break the stone sculpture, too—but that if that happened, it would “kill” Jude. Guillermo places a hand on Jude’s shoulder to comfort her, and reassures her that her mother will not break this sculpture. Together, they head down the hall to the room where Oscar is waiting.
In the smaller studio, Oscar disrobes while Jude experiences “penis-panic.” Guillermo instructs Jude to start drawing, and tells Oscar to change position every three minutes. As he watches Jude sketch, Guillermo urges her to draw more quickly, loosen her grip on the charcoal, and keep her eyes on the model, not the page. His criticisms become overwhelming, and he wonders aloud whether Jude has learned anything at all at CSA. He urges her to stop thinking so much, and work with her eyes rather than her brain. Jude feels embarrassed. As if reading her mind, Guillermo tells her not to worry about Oscar—to focus only on her art. He reminds her that her work means so much to her that she climbed up his fire escape in the middle of the night.
Jude is sidetracked by Oscar’s good locks and naked body, but Guillermo urges her to focus on the task at hand—learning how to use her art as a conduit for the way she sees the world rather than the way the world itself actually is. This is something Noah has always been able to do, but it is a skill that Jude must painstakingly develop.
As Jude begins drawing faster and faster, starting a new drawing every ten or fifteen seconds, Guillermo urges her on, reminding her of the wisdom of famous artists like Picasso and Michelangelo who stated that they used their brains, not their eyes, to work. After a few minutes, Guillermo goes so far as to take a scarf from around his neck and use it to blindfold Jude, who keeps drawing, finally understanding.
As Jude experiences her first breakthrough, she allows herself to open up and commit to her feelings—perhaps for the first time in a long time, enshrouded as she has been in grief, pain, and self-denial.
Later, Jude is in another room waiting for Guillermo to return from an errand. Oscar, now fully clothed, peeks into the room and congratulates Jude on making a breakthrough earlier. He also asks her if she ever went back to the church where they met—he left one of the developed photographs there for her, with a note on the back. He lifts his camera and takes a picture of Jude, telling her that her eyes and face are ethereal—he confesses that he stared at pictures of her for “hours” the night before. Jude is still wary of her attraction to Oscar, but admits that there is something different about him—he makes her feel “seen.”
In many ways, Jude’s internal conflict over whether or not she should surrender to her feelings for Oscar mirrors her struggle in surrendering to faith in her own art—both are tied to a kind of release which Jude has been trying to avoid for years.
Oscar asks Jude if he can photograph her nude sometime—he says it’s “only fair,” since she’s drawn him naked. Jude laughs off his request, telling Oscar that he’s “bad news.” He begs her to accept his invitation to live a little “dangerously,” but Jude rebuffs him again. At the same time, though, she hears the ghost of Grandma Sweetwine urging her to get a piece of her hair into Oscar’s pocket—Jude remembers her aphorism in the bible, “As long as a man has a lock of your hair on his person, you will be in his heart.”
This passage shows that as Jude’s ease around Oscar grows, her superstitious tendencies evolve. Grandma’s spirit is urging Jude not to throw away Oscar’s oranges or eat lemons to drive him away, but rather to pursue the connection in earnest.
Jude hears a pair of heels tapping on the floor in the hall—Oscar explains that someone named Sophia has arrived to pick him up. Before he goes out in the hall, though, Oscar tells Jude that he is certain he was always meant to meet her—their meeting was prophesized, he says, by his mother when she was on her deathbed. Jude is breathless.
Again, the intersection of the supernatural and the romantic continues to drive Jude’s attraction to Oscar—and, apparently, Oscar’s to Jude.
The girl named Sophia enters the room—she is dressed like a pinup girl and “glitters.” She kisses Oscar on the mouth, and Jude’s heart sinks. She is deeply confused. Oscar introduces Sophia and “CJ,” but falsely states that Jude goes to The Institute—a nearby university. Jude is so distracted by her jealousy towards Sophia, who is gorgeous and has a sexy Transylvanian accent, that she doesn’t bother correcting Oscar. She wonders why Oscar would tell her about the prophecy—and flirt with her so openly—if he’s involved with somebody else.
Jude is off put and even upset by the mixed messages Oscar seems to be sending her. Jude, who has shorn off her beautiful hair and hidden her body in lumpy outfits, is intimidated (and perhaps even jealous) by the sensual freedom Sophie exudes.
Oscar and Sophia leave, and Jude runs to the window to look down at the street. She sees Sophia climb onto the back of Oscar’s motorcycle, and as the two of them take off, she berates herself for being unable to be the girl who “lives dangerously.”
This passage confirms that Jude is angry with herself for being unable to embody the fearlessness and self-confidence many other girls have.
Jude explores Guillermo’s home, pressing against a door that’s been left ajar and entering a study that looks as if it has been hit by a cyclone. Books, papers, and notepads are everywhere, and there are ashtrays full of cigarettes along with empty bottles of liquor. In the center of the room, on the floor, is a face-down stone angel. Jude recognizes that Guillermo has, at some point recently, trashed the room in an expression of his rage and grief.
As Jude comes face-to-face with yet another reminder of the intense grief Guillermo has recently had to endure, she is both frightened and intrigued, recognizing him as a kindred spirit.
Jude picks through the papers, finding consignment forms from galleries, proposals, and press releases from past shows. She looks through a small pad of sketches and notes written in Spanish—unable to understand any of it, she picks up another notebook and flips until she finds something written in English. She discovers a steamy yet melancholy love letter addressed to someone called “Dearest.” The letter is unfinished, and Jude thinks of a piece of Grandma Sweetwine’s wisdom from the bible: “If a man doesn’t give his beloved the letter he writes, his love is true.”
Love, grief, intimacy, and magic continue to remain entwined in Jude’s mind as she combs through Guillermo’s old notebooks.
Jude hears the front door creak open, and knows she needs to get out of the room. She hears footsteps outside the study door, and smells smoke—she realizes that Guillermo must be having a cigarette just outside the room. She waits quietly in the dim room, staring at the art books scattered on the floor, until she spots one of her mother’s. She quietly opens it to the title page, where she sees that her mother has signed the book for Guillermo. In the inscription, she thanks Guillermo for the “tremendous honor” of interviewing him. Jude, moved, stuffs the book inside her sweatshirt—along with one of Guillermo’s notebooks—as she hears Guillermo calling for “CJ.” She hears his footsteps retreating, and quickly scampers across the hall to the smaller studio, where she hides the books in her portfolio case.
Though Jude is afraid of intimacy and raw emotion in her own life, she is mesmerized by it in the words and actions of others. She wants to possess Guillermo’s notebooks so that she can understand the passion within them—and wants to take her mother’s book with its personalized inscription as a way of collecting every last scattered “piece” of Dianna she can find.
Jude goes into the larger studio to find Guillermo, who asks her if she’s ready for her life to change before allowing her to choose a practice rock and begin learning how to carve. He instructs Jude to be bold, wear protective gear, and let the rock tell her what is inside “directly.” After hours and hours of practice carving, Jude returns home with aching muscles and bruised thumbs. She finds Oscar’s oranges in her bag while unpacking it—remembering Sophia, she takes the oranges to the kitchen and turns them into juice.
Though Jude has made some breakthroughs today in terms of her art practice, she has faced some setbacks when it comes to love and emotional intimacy. Though all of these feelings are bound up and intertwined within Jude’s mind, success in one arena does not guarantee happiness in the other.
When Jude returns to her bedroom, she finds Noah there, sifting through her sketchpad. She confronts him and asks him what he’s doing going through her stuff, but Noah nervously states that he was just interested in seeing what Jude was working on. Jude is reluctant to talk to Noah about anything she’s doing over at Guillermo’s, not wanting to be vulnerable with him and discuss her art.
Just as Noah always hid the “invisible museum” from everyone else, Jude now feels a protectiveness over her own work—and, perhaps, about the new “family” she longs to become a part of.
Jude says only that she’s planning on working on a sculpture of their mother in marble or granite, but Noah is barely listening anyway—his phone buzzes in his pocket, and he picks up the phone and starts talking to one of his friends. He turns around and leaves the room. Jude goes to the door and watches as he walks down the hall—halfway to his room, Noah abruptly stops talking and puts the phone in his pocket. Jude realizes that he faked the call just to get away from her, and worries that their relationship will never be repaired.
This passage shows that Noah is not uninterested in what Jude is doing—but perhaps rather emotionally incapable of handling the idea that his sister is going off to make art with a famous sculptor, while Noah’s artistic dreams have been mysteriously but decisively dashed.
Jude arrives at Guillermo’s the next morning to find a note taped to the door—Be back soon, it says. Jude heads down the hallway, where Grandma Sweetwine’s ghost is waiting for her in the large “mailroom” space. Grandma’s ghost encourages her to give Oscar a chance, but Jude retorts that Oscar is bad news—and already has a girlfriend to boot. Grandma warns Jude not to judge Oscar so quickly. Jude remembers the very last passage written in Grandma’s bible: “A broken heart is an open heart.”
Despite all of her lore and superstition concerning ways to ward off affection or unwanted advances, the ghost of Grandma Sweetwine seems to want Jude to connect with Oscar—and to see her “broken heart” not as a deficiency but as a strength.
Grandma and Jude stare together at Guillermo’s wall mural of the entwined lovers, and Jude wonders aloud what it must be like to get kissed so passionately. Grandma Sweetwine doesn’t answer though—Oscar does. He appears behind Jude and says he’d be “happy to show [her,]” if only she’d abandon her boy boycott. Jude, embarrassed, worries that she looks “crazy” to Oscar, having been “chattering away” to the ghost of Grandma just moments earlier. Oscar seems more amused than off-put, though, and asks “CJ” who she was talking to. She admits that she was talking to the ghost of her grandmother, defensively adding that a large percentage of the population sees ghosts.
This passage demonstrates the genuine interest Oscar has in Jude. Even when he catches her in a vulnerable moment, he doesn’t taunt her—he seems curious about her relationship to the world of the supernatural and charmed by her feelings of wonder and curiosity about the world of love and sex.
Becoming sincere, Oscar tells Jude that he’s sorry for her losses—of both her mother and her grandmother. He then reassures Jude that he didn’t hear very much of what she was saying—he was asleep in his room and heard her voice, but wasn’t spying on her “conversation.” Jude can’t help feeling deeply attracted to Oscar, and wishes she could go over and kiss him—but then she remembers Sophia. She angrily asks him why he’s flirting with her when he has a girlfriend, but Oscar claims he doesn’t have a girlfriend—Sophia is his ex, he explains, and the two of them have remained friends throughout the years.
This novel is full of coincidences of fate, chance, and destiny—as well as a slew of misunderstandings and miscommunications. When Oscar clears up Jude’s misconception about his relationship with Sophia, a part of Jude’s faith in the power of destiny is restored.
Oscar thanks Jude for calling him out on his devilish and flirtatious nature—he confesses that deep down it’s all an act. Oscar tells Jude that he is just as anxious and superstitious as she is, and that he too is haunted by ghosts—he misses his dead mother, and often carries talismans and takes naps at strange hours hoping to meet her ghost or see her in his dreams. As Jude looks at Oscar lovingly, he cracks a smile and tells her that Guillermo has recently warned him that he will “castrate” Oscar if he gets too close to Jude. Oscar admits that he doesn’t want to ruin things with Jude or Guillermo—he values Jude’s friendship, and can tell that she’s had a calming effect on Guillermo as well. Oscar holds out his hand for a handshake, and promises Jude that the two of them will remain platonic friends.
In this passage, Oscar truly levels with Jude for the first time in the novel. He confesses that for him, grief, magic, and love are also inextricably intertwined, and implies that he uses flirtation and sexual attention to distract himself from the overwhelming grief and guilt he feels every day.
Jude shakes Oscar’s hand and declares the deal done. At the same time, as their hands are clasped, she prays for him to kiss her. Oscar lets go of her hand and turns to leave, but Jude asks him to stay and continue their conversation. As they exchange banter and laughter, Jude thinks of one of Grandma’s aphorisms from the bible: “Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before […] You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
Despite the agreement she and Oscar have just made, Jude cannot help but feel intensely attracted to him—and cannot shake the suspicion that there is more to their connection than just physical attraction.
Jude asks Oscar why he puts on a front—Oscar asks Jude the same question back. Jude says only that she’s done “terrible things,” and Oscar admits that he has, too. He admits to passing out drunk while he was supposed to be caring for his cancer-stricken mother, and warns Jude that’s “just a starter anecdote.”
In this passage, Jude realizes that she and Oscar are both people imprisoned by intense feelings of grief and guilt over their past actions.
Oscar attempts to lighten the mood by asking Jude if she likes him better when he’s “full of it,” but Jude insists she wants to get to know “all” of him. Oscar tells Jude that he has to go get ready for his shift at a local café. Before he leaves the room, Jude asks what Oscar meant when he said Jude was “her” that first day they met in church, but he leaves without answering. Jude comes up with a piece of “scripture” of her own on the fly, and thinks that if she puts the “most passionate love note ever written” in Oscar’s jacket pocket, she will win his heart. Remembering that she has Guillermo’s “Dearest” letter in her pocket, she calls Oscar back into the room under the pretense of brushing some dirt off his jacket—she slips the note into his pocket and then bids him goodbye.
In this passage, Jude—perhaps spurred by the realization that she and Oscar have both suffered intensely—decides to take an action which she hopes will bring her closer to Oscar. She is beginning to see the real him, and as she experiments with emotional vulnerability, she realizes that perhaps surrendering to another person is not as terrifying as it once seemed.
As Jude waits for Guillermo to return from his errand so that she can start carving, she feels as if, through her conversation with Oscar, something has loosened inside of her. She stares and stares at her practice rock, begging it to tell her what’s inside, and then receives a flash of inspiration—the sculpture she needs to make is not of her mother after all.
Jude receives a flash of inspiration related to her art directly on the heels of an intense emotional conversation. Jude is learning that to be vulnerable in her art, she must be vulnerable in life, and open herself up to new experiences and new feelings.
When Guillermo returns, he and Jude begin their daily carving lesson. Jude attempts to throw herself into the lesson to distract herself from the embarrassment of having slipped Oscar a love note—but can’t help asking Guillermo a few questions about the guy throughout their session. She learns that Oscar is nineteen and a freshman at the local university—though he has a dorm room, he often stays over at Guillermo’s. After several such questions, Guillermo puts his hand under Jude’s chin and tells her that though he loves Oscar, if he had a daughter of his own, he would keep her “in another state” from Oscar. He warns Jude that Oscar is young, dumb, and careless, and does not have the right ideas about love yet. Jude promises Guillermo that she will do everything she can to nix her crush on Oscar.
Even though Jude has begun to feel excited about the prospect of connecting more deeply with Oscar, in this passage, Guillermo warns her that perhaps Oscar isn’t prepared to give Jude the kind of emotional support she needs. This idea frightens her all over again—but perhaps doesn’t scare her off entirely.
Guillermo gives Jude a bag of clay and tells her to make a small-scale rendering of what she wants her stone carving to look like. Jude begins molding a pair of “round bubble bodies, shoulder to shoulder”—as she works on the new “NoahandJude” sculpture, she forgets about everything but Noah. After reviewing the model, Guillermo helps Jude make some markings on her practice rock, and soon she is placing hammer to chisel and carving into the stone.
Jude has realized that trying to connect with her dead mother and repair a relationship that no longer exists is futile. The real relationship that needs saving is hers and Noah’s—and Jude believes that her art will allow her a way to do so.
As Jude hammers into the stone, she remembers a day not long after their mother died—the day Noah almost drowned after jumping off a cliff into the sea. Jude ran into the riptide after him and pulled him to shore where she beat his chest until he coughed up water and began breathing again. Noah promised Jude he hadn’t been trying to kill himself—but Jude didn’t, and still doesn’t, believe him. In the moments that Noah was on the beach, not breathing, it was the first time since the womb that Noah hadn’t been “with” Jude. This memory fuels her rage and pain as she chisels at her practice rock, finally working by feeling rather than seeing. Part of her hopes that in freeing herself and Noah from the stone, she can free them in real life from their pain and fury with one another.
Jude and Noah have gotten away from the intense codependency and overlap of identity that defined their youth—but they have swung so far in the opposite direction that they have lost one another entirely. The day Noah stopped breathing was definitive proof of how far apart he and Jude had drifted, and now, Jude is determined to stop them from losing any more of one another before it’s too late.
An exhausted Jude heads back inside from the outdoor work area to find Guillermo, cursing in Spanish, pummeling a clay sculpture of a man. Guillermo finishes, then stands up to look at his ruined piece. He catches a glimpse of Jude, and motions for her to get out of his studio. Jude worries that she is not up to the task of truly putting herself into her art.
Jude wants for her artistic practice to be intense, cleansing, and revelatory—but when she sees Guillermo literally wrestling with his work, she realizes that intensity in art can be destructive and painful.
Jude wanders into the loft where Oscar sleeps. She inspects his room and lies down on his bed, breathing in his scent. On Oscar’s bedside table is a picture of a woman whom Jude realizes must be Oscar’s mother—she tenderly asks the picture to “forgive him already.” Unlike Jude’s own dead relatives, Oscar’s mother doesn’t answer.
Jude wants to know everything about Oscar, and ventures into his room as a way of discovering more about him and attempting to understand the things he won’t share.
Jude begins rifling through Oscar’s books and papers, and find an essay he wrote for an art history class—a class Dianna once taught. Jude realizes that if Dianna had lived, Oscar would probably be her student right now. As Jude stares at Oscar’s name on the paper and sees his surname for the first time—Ralph—she thinks of her neighbor’s parrot, always squawking after a mysterious Ralph, and wonders if destiny or a “miracle” has played a part in her meeting Oscar.
This passage highlights several more of the novel’s twisting, dizzying ribbons of fate and destiny, and Jude finds her faith in magic and the supernatural fortified.
Finally, Jude lifts Oscar’s jacket off of a hanger and puts it on. The note to “Dearest” is not in the pocket anymore, and Jude’s stomach drops as she thinks of Oscar reading it. As Jude wraps herself in the jacket she looks down at Oscar’s desk, and sees it is covered in photographs of her from church. Sticky notes affixed to the pictures reveal, in Oscar’s handwriting, the prophecy his mother made—she told Oscar that he would meet the love of his life in a church. As Jude studies the photographs, she sees herself through Oscar’s eyes—she is radiant and mysterious. One sticky note reads “I don’t want to be just friends,” and Jude realizes that she doesn’t either.
Jude has, for so long, only been able to see herself through other’s eyes in a negative light. She sensed her mother’s judgement, her brother’s derision, and her father’s confusion—now, seeing herself through Oscar’s eyes, she encounters someone who views her not with any negative emotions but with reverence and even idolatry.
At that moment, Jude hears footsteps climbing the stairs—and two voices. Oscar is talking with a girl—a new girl, not Sophia. Jude, panicking, quickly hides in the closet and listens as the two enter the room. When Oscar’s date asks about the photographs splayed all over the desk—and who the girl within them is—Oscar assures her that the photos are of “nobody,” and are just part of a school project. Jude watches through the slats of the closet as Oscar and the girl, whom Oscar keeps calling Brooke, begin kissing on the bed. Deciding she can’t stay any longer, Jude pushes open the closet door, and Oscar and Brooke freeze. Oscar is stunned and Brooke is angry. Jude flees with Oscar’s jacket still on. As she runs from the room, she hears him telling her to “check the other pockets.”
As Jude overhears Oscar diminishing their relationship in order to win over a new girl, she is hurt beyond words. She opened herself up to Oscar—and witnessed him opening up to her—and now feels that that has all been made irrelevant by the cavalier way he dismisses the clearly reverent photos of her in front of someone else.
Outside, Jude feels around Oscar’s jacket until she finds a picture tucked into the lining—a picture of her. Jude is unable to reconcile the fact that Oscar carries around a photograph of her like a totem while making out with random girls and calling Jude a “nobody.” Jude, angry with herself, begins walking home. She is barely a block from Guillermo’s when she hears footsteps behind her. Believing they are Oscar’s, she turns around to confront him, but finds herself face-to-face with a “petrified”-looking Noah instead.
The mystery intensifies and the circumstances of connection and coincidence are heightened as Jude realizes that Noah has followed her to Guillermo’s—and seems desperate to share something with her.