Jude lies in bed, but she cannot sleep: she keeps thinking of Oscar kissing Brooke, of her mother’s and grandmother’s ghosts, and of Noah. After they ran into one another, Noah haltingly told Jude he’d simply been out for a jog and had wound up at Day Street, but Jude doesn’t believe Noah. She wonders why he followed her down there—and whether he’s keeping something from her.
Jude is distracted and disturbed by the lies, half-truths, and cover-ups which seem to be unfolding all around her.
Jude thinks she hears a noise in the house—she grabs a baseball bat from under her bed and goes out to the hall, walking around her home to make sure it’s safe. She pauses in the doorway of her parents’ bedroom, which looks as if it is “still waiting” for Dianna to come back. All of her mother’s antique perfume bottles and makeup jars are still lined up on the dresser, and a picture on Benjamin’s bedside table of him and Dianna portrays them when they were happy and youthful.
This passage shows that the Sweetwine house—just like Jude’s psyche—is haunted by the ghost of Dianna and the desire for her return.
Jude wonders what things would be like if Dianna had lived and moved back home, as she intended to. Her mother always seemed, to her and Noah, like she had “horses galloping inside of her”—wild, impulsive, and passionate. Jude realizes how little she knows about her mother’s life before she was married and had children, and wishes Dianna were still here to tell her “everything.”
Jude has trouble reconciling what she knew about her mother with all she didn’t know. She regrets not taking advantage of the time she had with Dianna and learning all she could about her while she was still alive.
Jude dabs on some perfume, remembering a time when Dianna was still alive. After catching Jude putting on her makeup, Dianna came up behind Jude and began brushing her hair. She confided in Jude that their relationship was so difficult because Jude reminded Dianna so much of herself.
Jude and Dianna were both intense, rebellious, dreamy, and connected to the idea that there was more to life than met the eye. This sameness created tension rather than empathy between them.
Back in her room, Jude feels overwhelmed with emotion. When she’s feeling something, Noah is often feeling it too, and she presses her ear to the wall between their rooms to see if she can hear him crying or sense any sadness. She is struck with a sudden idea—she wonders what would happen if she contacted Brian on her brother’s behalf.
Rather than succumb to her feelings of sadness, grief, and despair, Jude decides to take the reins and actually try and improve someone’s life—she decides to start with her brother’s.
Jude goes over to the computer and begins searching for Brian on the internet. She reads that after coming out as gay, Brian was offered a scholarship to Stanford to play baseball there. Many articles describe how Brian’s openness about his identity has begun to turn the tides in the baseball world, and even the MLB is recruiting openly gay players. Jude knows that Stanford is less than two hours away from Lost Cove—she goes to Stanford’s online directory and finds Brian’s email. She creates a fake account of her own and uses it to send a link to the recurring LostConnections post Noah makes each week. She then gets back into bed, wondering what happened between Noah and Brian, but excited by the thought of how happy her brother will be if he gets to reconnect with Brian at last.
There is so much secrecy surrounding whatever the truth of Noah and Brian’s relationship was—or wasn’t—that Jude has a hard time knowing where to begin. She does know, though, that Noah has intense feelings of grief and loss where Brian is concerned, and she hopes that by trying to reconnect them she can ease some of her brother’s suffering.
In the morning, Jude gets up and heads straight to Guillermo’s—she is determined to get “NoahandJude” out of her practice rock. When she arrives at the warehouse, she hears Guillermo and Oscar arguing in the mailroom. Guillermo is chastising Oscar for “hurt[ing others] before [he] can be hurt.” Even though Oscar betrayed her, she feels the urge to run into the room and wrap him in her arms.
Jude doesn’t hate Oscar—rather, it’s the opposite. She loves him so much that she wants to understand where his dark impulses and self-sabotage from. Jude is developing a more nuanced view of the world and of love itself.
Jude leaves the warehouse and goes to the church for an hour or so. When she returns, Guillermo and Oscar have stopped arguing—Guillermo, covered in white dust from carving stone, greets Jude and apologizes for scaring her off earlier. He comforts her by telling her that “what is bad for the heart is good for her art,” and urges her to get to work. Jude is flushed with pride that Guillermo sees her as a fellow artist. Together, she and Guillermo go outside to set to work on their rocks.
In this passage, Guillermo essentially gives Jude permission to experience the true depths of her feelings. Painful as they may be, he tells her, grief and longing will always feed her artistic practice and allow her to connect more deeply to the truth of who she is, not just as an artist but a person.
Guillermo teaches Jude to use power tools on her rock rather than a hammer and chisel, but warns her to respect the tools’ power. Jude asks if there are second chances if she makes a mistake—not just in art, but in life—and Guillermo tells her that “even God [had] to make the world twice.” He encourages Jude to embrace even her mistakes when she’s working with stone.
Jude begins working—as she does, she becomes lost in thought, and recalls the afternoon her mother died. She wasn’t home when the news came—she was off at the beach with Zephyr. When she did get home at last and Benjamin told her the news, her first reaction was to put her hands not over her own ears but Noah’s—she feels the same instinct to protect him now as she wrestles to get him out of the rock.
This passage demonstrates that Jude has always shouldered the role of protector—even on the occasions when it is she herself who has needed protection.
Jude reflects even more deeply on what happened in the wake of Mom’s death. Noah became despondent with grief, and after he tried to jump from Devil’s Drop and got lost in the surf, Jude became angry with him. One afternoon, three weeks after Mom’s accident—and the night before her and Noah’s CSA applications were due—Jude hurriedly put together a work sample and then Dad drove both of them to the post office to mail off their applications. He and Noah waited in the car while Jude ran the packets inside—but she only mailed hers, and stuck Noah’s in the trash.
Whatever Jude’s motivations—grief, anger, jealousy, the desire for independence—she committed an act she couldn’t take back, just like Noah did when he lashed out at Brian and Dianna. As Nelson reveals her characters’ deepest mistakes, she does so simultaneously with the idea that they have permission to remake the world and recover from their transgressions, showing that there are always second chances.
For weeks, Jude told herself that she would come clean to both Noah and her dad. But every time there was an opportunity to make things right, she lost her courage. This, Jude knows, is why her mother destroys everything she makes—she cannot forgive Jude for sabotaging Noah.
Jude is projecting a vengeful, angry personality onto her mother’s ghost—when really, Jude’s own feelings of guilt and self-loathing are what have taken over her life and her conscience.
Guillermo offers Jude a cup of coffee and a short break, but Jude insists she needs to continue working. For hours she wrestles with the stone—and with her inner demons—as she wonders whether maybe, after all, she doesn’t need her mother’s permission or approval; maybe Jude can be “in charge of [her] own damn light switch.” Exhausted, and sick of making herself invisible, Jude pauses work and removes her baggy sweatshirt. She closes her eyes for just a second, feeling as if she has awoken from a deep slumber. She knows now that whether or not Noah decides to hate her forever, she needs to do one thing for him: “uncrush his dream.”
This passage is a major scene of transformation for Jude. She is struggling to disentangle herself not just from her codependent history with Noah—but from her difficult relationship with her mother, and from all the ways in which it made her feel like she could never escape her own perceived inadequacies. Jude realizes that she is in charge of her own fate, and that all she can do is give her all—in art, in love, and in her relationships with those she cares for.
Jude goes into the warehouse and uses Oscar’s computer to send an email to Sandy at CSA—she asks if she can meet with him before school on the first day back from break and bring along her brother. She presses “send” on the email, feeling free at last as she plans to give up her spot. She then texts Noah and tells him they need to talk.
Jude decides that she wants to right the wrongs of her past—and decides to start with correcting the perceived imbalance in the universe that is her having taken Noah’s spot at CSA. What Jude doesn’t realize is that unfair start or not, she has earned her place at CSA and her identity as an artist.
Jude returns outside and asks Guillermo to show her how to use the toughest tool he has—a diamond blade circular saw. After a brief tutorial, Jude picks up the saw and cleaves her “NoahandJude” sculpture in half. Guillermo, shocked, asks Jude why she has killed “them.” Jude responds that she has “saved them.”
Jude walks home after the sun has gone down, feeling light and free for the first time in years. Though she knows she has some hard conversations with both Dad and Noah ahead of her, she feels like she is finally making peace with herself and taking control of her life. Halfway home, though, she receives a text from Heather—the text states that Noah is “very drunk” and is planning on jumping Dead Man’s Dive—the only cliff in Lost Cove more perilous than Devil’s Drop.
Jude is not in hiding anymore—she has confronted her inner demons and realized that the only way to move forward is to deliberately repair the mistakes of the past while detaching from the debilitating guilt associated with them. A new development, though, threatens her ability to make good on her new resolutions—and her brother’s life.
As Jude arrives at the cliffs, she has a bad feeling, and worries that her decision to come clean and turn things around has come too late. The moon is high, and kids from all over Lost Cove are out in droves having bonfires and picnics. She looks around for someone she knows—the only people she spots are members of Zephyr’s crew, and though she’s nervous to approach them without the armor of her hoodie and beanie, she goes up to Fry and asks him where Noah is. A voice behind her—Zephyr’s—tells her that Noah took off.
Just as Jude regrets having wasted the time she had with Dianna, she now worries that she has wasted the opportunity to make things right with Noah and her father, and has allowed her whole family’s feelings of guilt and hatred to fester too long.
As Jude turns around and faces Zephyr for the first time in years, she is reminded of the afternoon of Dianna’s death—the afternoon she lost her virginity to Zephyr on this very beach. The act felt like “the biggest mistake of [Jude’s] life,” and as she rushed home afterward, all she could think of was how badly she needed her mother. When she walked in the door of the house, however, she was greeted with the terrible news. Jude has, for years, felt as if she has been unable to get the horrible feeling of that afternoon off of her.
Though Jude is determined to move forward, there is one last thing from her past she needs to deal with—her own pain and suffering on the afternoon of her mother’s death, and the feelings of guilt it later inspired in her.
Jude asks if Noah went home, but Zephyr points up to a bluff that is at least twice the height even of Dead Man’s Drop and says that Noah and some friends went up there. Jude scrambles through the crowd and heads up the cliff—Zephyr follows her though she doesn’t want him to, determined to help her find her way up.
As Jude realizes just how much danger Noah is in, she blindly leaps at the chance to save him, ignoring even her own limitations as she chases after her brother.
As they climb the bluff, Zephyr reminds Jude of a favor she asked him long ago—to look out for Noah. Jude wheels around, furious, and shouts at him that she was “too young” to sleep with him, and he knew it. Jude spits at Zephyr and warns him to never do that to another young girl again. Jude turns around again and continues heading up the bluff, doubling her pace.
In this brief scene, Jude refuses to allow Zephyr to have any power over her any more—but at the same time tries to point out to him the fact that he took advantage of her, and that even his promise to look after Noah cannot right that wrong.
As Jude reaches the top of the hill, she hears an odd chanting: a group of kids are saying Sweetwine over and over again. Jude and Zephyr push through the crowd and see Noah standing ten feet from the cliff’s edge, an empty liquor bottle at his feet. Jude rushes forward and grabs Noah—the crowd boos as the show is interrupted. Noah tells Jude that he wasn’t going to jump, and Jude tearfully says she doesn’t believe him. After just a moment, Noah admits that Jude is right—he is “totally gonna jump.” Noah pushes Jude down and spins away from her, dashing towards the edge. Jude’s head hits the ground, and she blacks out.
Jude has been so afraid of losing Noah over the last several years—and in this passage, she sees that her greatest fears are about to be realized. Noah, unlike Jude, has not yet come up with a healthy way to disentangle himself from his grief and his intense regret.
When Jude wakes up, she wonders if she is hallucinating—the first thing she sees is Oscar lying on top of Noah, whom he tackled before the latter could reach the edge. Jude is confused as Noah and Oscar, recognizing one another, exchange a fist-bump. Oscar chides Noah—whom he calls “Picasso”—for following in his footsteps, but Noah drunkenly insists that he isn’t himself.
The novel’s many threads of chance connections and unlikely coincidences begin to come together as Jude, Noah, and Oscar are all at the same place at the same time.
As Jude and Noah talk at and over one another, Oscar realizes they are brother and sister, and is charmed by the revelation. Oscar observes that Jude looks cold, and says he’d offer her his jacket—but “someone” stole it. Jude warns Oscar not to flirt with her. Oscar apologizes, sincerely, but Jude can barely process it at the moment. She flatly thanks Oscar for saving Noah, and as Noah and Oscar begin catching up, Jude can’t help but smile. She wonders if Oscar’s apology really was genuine—and what it would mean if it is.
Jude has put so many walls up when it comes to Oscar, and has always suspected the worst of him. In this moment, as he attempts to really level with her and sincerely apologize, she wonders whether she has been too hard on him—and whether everyone deserves a second chance.
Jude prods Noah to thank Oscar for saving his life, but Noah insists that it’s Mom who saves him every time he jumps from the cliffs. Oscar warns Noah that drunk cliff-diving is certain death, and urges him to “live [his] life rather than risk it” over and over again. Noah replies that when Mom saves him during his jumps is “the only time she forgives [him]”—Jude wonders what Noah did that needs forgiving. Jude comforts Noah, telling him that everything is going to be okay—Noah responds that things are about to get worse, but Jude just doesn’t know it yet. Jude feels a chill in her bones.
Oscar helps Noah up and begins walking him and Jude home. On the way, Jude and Oscar’s hands brush a few times, and Jude wonders if they’re doing it on purpose. Oscar reveals that he was at the cliffs hoping to have his first drink in nearly a year, depressed after his fight with Guillermo earlier—when Jude pushed through the crowd towards Noah, she knocked the drink out of his hand. Oscar tells Jude that it was she who saved his life tonight. As they continue towards the house, Jude holds Oscar’s hand in hers.
The novel’s motif of fate, destiny, and unlikely connections continues in this passage as Jude realizes that she and Oscar were somehow fated to be on that cliff together tonight—so that he could save Noah, and so that she could save Oscar.
Later that evening, Jude sits at her desk finishing up the studies for Mom’s sculpture in preparation for showing them to Guillermo tomorrow. Noah is sleeping, and Oscar has gone home. She is so elated by her feelings of love for Oscar that she wishes she had someone alive to tell. After finishing her sketch, Jude, unable to sleep, pulls out a couple of notebooks she stole from Guillermo’s library and leafs through them. She reads another draft of a love letter to “Dearest,” in which he asks the woman to marry him.
Jude is beginning to realize that perhaps her dependence on superstition and the world of the dead has hindered her ability to be fully present in the world of the living. As she considers her very intense feelings of love—and ruminates on Guillermo’s, as well—she realizes she must make a change.
Soon there is a tap on the window—Jude asks if it is Oscar, and when she hears his voice in response, she quickly ruffles her hair, puts on some lipstick, and pulls on a dress. When she goes to the window, Oscar is stunned by how beautiful Jude looks. He tells her that, halfway home, he remembered he had something important to tell her. When she asks what it is, he leans through the window and kisses her.
Jude wants to look beautiful for Oscar, and show him the truth of who she can be—she is done hiding her feelings and her true appearance behind a layer of disguise.
In a flash of realization, Jude realizes that Oscar is the guy from all of Noah’s drawings—the dream-guy whose likeness once hung on the wall of her room. She pulls away from Oscar and tells him that once, years ago, she “gave up practically the whole world” for him. As the two continue kissing, Jude grows tense, worried that a sexual experience with Oscar will remind her of her terrible one with Zephyr—but when she opens her eyes and looks into his face, she feels only love and trust.
As Jude recognizes the strange, unlikely, but seemingly fated coincidence of Oscar being the guy in the painting she was so drawn to all those years ago, she feels that her intense connection to Oscar is justified—and that things, with him, will be different than the sham relationships she’s known in the past.
Oscar comes into Jude’s bedroom and begins poking around. As he looks at old pictures of Jude surfing—and cliff-diving herself—he asks her about the person she used to be, and they reflect on how the deaths of both their mothers changed them.
Jude and Oscar have yet another frank conversation about how their grief has transformed them, and what that means for their relationship with one another.
Oscar admits that he is terrified of Jude—the depth of their emotional connection is something new and frightening. She has the power, he knows, to “devastate” him—even so, Oscar can’t help himself. He assures her that nothing happened with Brooke, and that his decision to go out with her was one made in fear after his deep conversation with Jude earlier that day. He worried that once Jude saw the “real” him, she’d run away, but Jude insists that it only made her want to get closer to Oscar.
Oscar, like Jude and Noah, is frightened of the possibility of total vulnerability. Nevertheless, as he realizes that Jude is interested, genuinely, in knowing and loving all of him, he allows himself to feel the depths of his true emotions.
As the two begin kissing again, Jude remarks that she feels they are “split-aparts”—ancient creatures whose souls resided in one body, but were split apart and made to roam the earth in search of their other half. Oscar asks Jude, in earnest, to embark on a relationship with him. Jude happily agrees, but tells Oscar that even if they’re split-aparts, she wants to have her own soul.
As Oscar continues looking around Jude’s room, he picks up a photograph of her with Noah and her parents. As he studies the photograph, Oscar’s face falls. Jude assumes that Oscar has realized that she and Noah are twins, and that she’s only sixteen. Jude tells Oscar that she wanted to tell him the truth about her age, but was waiting for the right time—she is desperate to keep him from leaving. Oscar, though, says something about Guillermo, and practically dives out the window. Jude is confused and worried—she studies the photograph, in which her mother and father are smiling at each other “like they have the best secret.”
Though Jude believes that the photograph has startled Oscar because it allowed him to realize that Jude is younger than he thought she was, readers know that it has startled him because he has realized, at last, that Jude is Dianna’s daughter.