The next morning, Jude arrives at Day Street with her sketchbook and presents Guillermo with the studies of her mother. As Guillermo flips through the drawings, he tenderly traces them with his fingers. He asks Jude if Dianna was her mother, and Jude admits that she was. Guillermo closes Jude’s sketchbook and says that he can’t help her after all. He says that it’s been distracting having her in the studio, and urges her to leave immediately. Jude is confused—and is even more confused when both Oscar and Noah burst into the studio. As the four of them look at one another with fear, Jude begs someone to tell her what’s going on.
Everyone but Jude is in on the enormous secret that threatens to shatter the unlikely but perhaps fated connections that have developed over the course of the novel. As the moment of truth approaches, Jude doesn’t try to run away from whatever frightening information is about to come to light, but instead chooses to embrace it.
Noah points at Guillermo and states that he killed Dianna. Oscar protests, asserting that no man has ever loved a woman as deeply as Guillermo loved Dianna. Jude is disoriented as she absorbs the information, and realizes it wasn’t her age that freaked Oscar out the night before—it was the photograph of Dianna. She also realizes that the first time she ever saw Guillermo—the day she came to his studio to find him in a drunken rage—was the anniversary of her mother’s death. Dianna, she realizes, is Dearest.
As all of Noah’s resentments come to a head, Jude is forced to put together the pieces of a puzzle she never wanted to solve—although many of the clues were in front of her all along.
Jude asks Noah to explain—Noah tearfully confesses that Dianna was on her way to ask Dad for a divorce when she died, and that Dianna was planning on marrying Guillermo. As Jude looks at Guillermo, she can sense joy seeping out of him, and realizes that her mother is the female figure in so many of Guillermo’s works—Dianna and Guillermo were split-aparts themselves. It is all too much for Jude, and she staggers out of the studio and into the street.
Though Jude is full of anger and confusion, she also has some empathy for Guillermo—who was not only forced to witness the death of his “split-apart,” but came to believe that the intensity of their love was unrequited.
Jude at last understands why her father has been so preoccupied all these years, and why Noah’s grief after Dianna’s death was so intense. She is angry with Noah—but also realizes that he was just trying to protect what was left of their family. Jude hears footsteps behind her, and realizes Noah is following her. He begins explaining that for years he has felt intense guilt, and has believed that he himself was actually responsible for Dianna’s death—his witnessing her affair brought her to a decision point, and if it hadn’t been for Noah’s meddling, she might not have been in the car that day. Noah also confesses that he told Dianna he hated her just before he left, and then breaks down in tears. Jude allows herself to surrender to her grief as well, and she and Noah hold one another in the street as they weep.
Jude and Noah have spent much of the novel in self-imposed isolation from one another, denying the truth of their emotions or keeping secrets from each other as a way of staving off pain, disappointment, and insecurity. They have reached a point, though, where their many secrets can no longer hold. They have been forced to this moment in many ways, but now that it is here, they choose to embrace it, and one another.
As Jude and Noah make their way home through the woods, Jude realizes that Grandma’s last aphorism from the bible—“A broken heart is an open heart”—was right after all. Noah and Jude talk more than they have in years, and Noah confesses to Jude that he and Brian were in love, and that Dianna caught them together. Noah regrets ruining Brian’s life—but Jude tells him what she’s found on the internet about Brian’s successful baseball career.
Noah and Jude have been afraid of admitting the depths of their guilt or seeking solace in one another, but as they come together in brokenness, they are at last able to understand all the things they have kept from one another and repair the miscommunications that have marred their relationship.
Jude admits that she has something to tell Noah, too, and at last comes clean about destroying his application. Rather than being angry, though, Noah is ecstatic—all along, he thought that he was rejected based on the subpar nature of his art. Over the years, though, he tells Jude, he has come to realize that other people’s approval didn’t matter. He joyfully tells Jude he has something to show her, and leads her through the woods towards an abandoned construction site.
Just as Guillermo was actually happy to learn that Noah had lied, and that Dianna really had loved him all along, Noah is relieved to learn that he wasn’t rejected from CSA on the basis of his talent but because of a miscommunication.
At the site, there is a mural painted on a cement crumbling wall—there are images of her and Noah, of Brian, of Mom and Guillermo at the Wooden Bird, of Dad, of Heather, and Guillermo’s stone giants. Noah has been remaking the world all along. Jude takes out her phone and begins snapping pictures, telling Noah that he’ll for sure get into CSA now—she reveals she’s planning on giving up her spot for him. Noah tells her, though, that he doesn’t want to go to CSA—he would rather make art for himself, on his own terms. He doesn’t want to study art—he wants to revel in its magic.
Noah’s intense artistry has always been a part of him, but when it put him in competition with Jude, he began hating the very thing that once brought him such joy. Since Jude’s acceptance to CSA, Noah has been able to reevaluate his relationship with art and remake it in full—he now works only for himself, and has no desire to use art as a way of one-upping his sister.
Noah promises Jude he isn’t mad at her, and the two of them, ecstatic to at least have the truth all out in the open, rush home through the woods. As they skip through the forest, they play rock-paper-scissors, and are thrilled to realize that they can really play now—unlike in their younger days, they pick different symbols each time. Pausing in a clearing to sit down, Noah reflects on how his desire to impress Dianna hurt his relationship with Jude. Jude asks Noah if Heather knows that he’s gay, and he says that she does. Jude remarks upon how normal Noah has gotten—and how weird she herself has become. She wonders aloud if perhaps that’s just what being alive is—“accumulating these new selves all the time.”
As Noah and Jude play rock-paper-scissors once more, they are using the game as a kind of test to see how far they’ve come. Their codependency once defined them and hindered their ability to form their own identities—but now, they have spent enough time apart that they’ve been able to come into their own and understand how to have a healthy relationship with enough distance in it to allow them each the space to grow.
As Jude thinks about her mother, she finds herself torn between two thoughts: she is thrilled that her mother was able to find true happiness with Guillermo, but miserable and angry that her happiness was Dad’s unhappiness. At the same time, Jude wonders if that’s what love is: whether it “does as it undoes.” Jude tells Noah that they have to get home—and that he has to tell Dad the truth. They run home and, as they emerge together out of the woods, see Benjamin in the yard. He is thrilled to see the two of them running and playing together—but when he sees the look on Noah’s face, he asks what Noah needs to tell him.
Jude is developing an adult, nuanced view of love and responsibility. She understands that though Dianna’s happiness brought a measure of pain into her family’s life, her mother deserved to be happy, too—Jude is learning that not everything is as black-and-white as it seems, and that in love, just as in art, there must always be room for mistakes and second chances.
Later that evening, Noah and Dad make dinner. Noah and Jude have made an agreement—she is going to stop relying so much on Grandma’s bible, and he is going to stop cliff-diving. Jude plans on making paper flying women out of pieces of Grandma’s bible, and wants to call the piece “The History of Luck.”
Jude formally renounces her attachment to the “bible” of supernatural wisdom—but honors the role it has had in her life and the things it has taught her about luck, chance, and destiny.
Jude reveals that after Noah told Dad the truth, Dad received the news calmly. He seemed almost grateful for things to at last, after so many years, make sense. Now, Dad tells the kids he has an idea—he wants for them to move to a houseboat. He feels the three of them need an adventure together as a family. Noah points out the corniness—and the beauty—of the three of them all living together on an “ark.” Benjamin has found a houseboat for sale, and its name is The Mystery—when she was alive, Dianna was always telling Benjamin to “Embrace the mystery,” and now he wants to.
The symbolic decision to move onto a houseboat reflects the way God, in the Bible, “remade the world” by flooding it. Terrible things have befallen the Sweetwine family—but the events which have caused them so much grief and pain are now actually allowing them to remake their family, understand one another on new terms, and come together even stronger than before.
Jude asks to help cook, and she begins slicing a pepper when there is a knock at the door—and Oscar walks in. As Jude jumps nearly out of her skin, she is reminded of the time Brian walked into the kitchen and spooked—and excited—Noah all those years ago. Jude introduces Oscar to Benjamin using his full name, Oscar Ralph, and then Oscar asks if he can talk to Jude alone. Dad and Noah dissolve into laughter—they point out that Jude has, at last, finally found Ralph.
The strange connections, seemingly fated meetings, and unlikely coincidences swirling around the Sweetwine family continue to pile up.
Jude follows Oscar out to the backyard, where they sit down together. He begins telling Jude that he knew Dianna well—she was around when Oscar was at his worst, and saw him in some unflattering lights. Nevertheless, she was always kind to him— moreover, Dianna aspired to paint, and often used Oscar as a model. Oscar and Dianna used to sit together in the church near Guillermo’s and talk—she would go “on and on about her twins.” Oscar tells Jude that he knows so much about her—and is trying to reconcile the Jude Dianna described with the “CJ” Oscar has grown to know over the last couple weeks.
The fact that Oscar knew her mother—and had a friendship with her—endears him to Jude even more. Jude understands how much her mother loved her—even though Jude was insecure about their relationship—and is able to see herself the way her mother saw her at last.
Oscar reveals that Dianna always thought Oscar and Jude were kindred spirits—but that she wouldn’t allow them to meet until Oscar had been sober for three years and Jude was at least twenty-five years old. What Oscar is trying to say to Jude, he admits, is that he doesn’t believe it’s “their time” yet—he worries that he is too old for her, and too close to the traumas of his past.
Oscar doesn’t want to hurt Jude, and is afraid of his own capacity to make mistakes and derail important relationships.
Oscar tells Jude that he wants to be great friends with her, and promises to wait for her until she’s of legal age—and sure that she wants to be with him. Jude is miserable—she begs Oscar not to turn his back on what “might be the love story of [their] lives” and “denying all the forces that have conspired to bring [them] together.” As Jude says these words, she feels both her mother and grandmother’s spirits inside of her. Oscar surrenders and kisses Jude, admitting that he’s crazy about her and agreeing that they shouldn’t waste any more time. As the two embrace, Jude’s neighbor parrot squawks again: “Where the hell is Ralph?”
Jude wants Oscar to stop allowing grief, guilt, and fear to rule his life. She has abandoned those things, and is ready to commit to a relationship free of judgement, anxiety, or shame—she encourages Oscar to meet her in the middle, and, sensing Jude’s confidence and honestly, he does.
The next day, Jude and Noah approach Guillermo’s studio. Jude reflects on her feelings about Guillermo—she has gone back and forth the last couple days between hating him entirely and wondering what it would have been like to have him as a stepfather. Jude is still confused about her feelings, but decides that “maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.”
Jude doesn’t hate Guillermo for coming between her parents—she understands that perhaps he was “meant to be” connected to her and Noah all along, and that a relationship she once perceived as a betrayal has actually allowed her family to grow closer together.
As Jude and Noah walk into the warehouse, Jude is shocked by how clean everything is—as they stand together in front of the painting on the wall of Guillermo and Dianna entwined in an embrace, Guillermo emerges from the next room and tells them that Dianna herself painted it. Noah wonders aloud why Dianna never shared her aspirations with him or Jude, and Guillermo says that she was scared—just like Jude was scared to show anyone her sand women. Guillermo reveals that it was he who sent Jude’s pictures to CSA—Dianna had planned on doing it once she found the photos on Noah’s camera, but he beat her to it.
Even more unlikely connections and strange twists of fate are revealed. Jude, Guillermo, Noah, and Dianna were all connected before they even knew one another—and the impact they have had on one another’s lives, often unbeknownst to the others, has been significant.
As Jude looks around the studio, she realizes that all of the coincidences and collisions have perhaps not been so random—Dianna wanted Guillermo in her children’s lives and them in his, knowing that they are, “each one of [them is] for the other, a key to a door that otherwise would’ve remained locked forever.”
Guillermo sets Noah up with canvases and paint, and then goes to check on Jude, who is working in the yard. Guillermo tells Jude that while Noah looks more like Dianna, Jude is Dianna—neither woman was ever afraid of him. Guillermo tells Jude that though he’d like to keep working with her, he understands if she doesn’t want to anymore. Jude admits, though, that being around Guillermo has made her feel better about things. Guillermo speculates that maybe Dianna’s ghost kept breaking Jude’s clay so that she’d come find a stone carver. Jude wonders who—or what—pulls the strings of destiny.
Two weeks later, Jude and Benjamin arrive back at the house after a swim in the ocean. As Jude looks across the street at the woods, she sees Brian and Noah emerging from the forest hand in hand—last week, Noah finally got a response to his LostConnections post. As Benjamin and Jude smile at Noah and Brian, a ladybug lands on Jude’s hand, and she makes a wish.
The novel ends on a note of hope and joyfulness. Everyone has grown, changed, shed their grief, and learned to accept the truth of who they really are—and who the people they love the most have become.