When Mia arrives at the Portland hospital, she is rushed into surgery to be treated for a host of injuries, such as a collapsed lung, contusions on her brain, broken ribs, and leg and facial abrasions. In the operating room, the doctors debate on what kind of music to play. Mia silently roots for classical, which they ultimately decide upon, though she is not too pleased with their selection of “Ride of the Valkyries.” Mia watches as the doctors and nurses pull and tug at her bloody body. The operation goes on for a long time, and the CD is switched to jazz, a genre that reminds Mia of her Dad, who once declared jazz as “punk for old people.”
Though Mia is watching her own body being cut and sewed and tugged, she feels no physical pain, causing her to feel detached from the operation at hand. This allows her mind to wander enough to have an opinion on what kind of music the surgeons are playing. As always, she roots for classical music, and can’t help but think of what her Dad would have said about the jazz. This underscores her Dad’s influence on her life and her love of music.
As the operation wears on, Mia wonders what the limitations of her state are. She attempts to walk through a wall, and is unsuccessful. She follows a nurse out of the operating room, and discovers her grandparents (her father’s parents) in a waiting area. Her grandmother, Gran, is chatting away, a hallmark of her anxiety, while her grandfather, Gramps, expresses his grief in silence. Gran believes in angels, and often says that birds she sees are deceased relatives who have come for a visit. Mia finds it difficult to look at Gramps, who bears a striking resemblance to Dad and Teddy.
Seeing her grandparents is both a comfort and a source of pain for Mia, as they remind her of the other family she has lost. Her grandmother’s belief in angels brings up a vague kind of spirituality, but there are no concrete religious ideas in the novel, or really anything to explain the nature of Mia’s out-of-body experience.
In a flashback, Mia recalls that it was Gran’s idea that she audition for Juilliard. An independent woman from a young age, Gran moved of her own volition from Massachusetts to Oregon when she was twenty-two. On one visit to Gran’s relatives in the East, Mia gives an impromptu concert with her cello, and someone brings up the idea that she is Juilliard-worthy. Gran speaks to Professor Christie about Mia auditioning, and Mia eventually sends in an application, subsequently receiving an invitation to audition. Though she is excited, Mia feels nervous that Adam will be upset, since he plans on remaining in Oregon to pursue the success of his band.
Though Mia is hesitant to become truly excited about Juilliard because it will mean distance from Adam, Gran’s own past is one of the factors inspiring her to summon the courage to move to New York to follow her dreams. Looking in on Mia’s life from the outside, it seems clear that Mia should choose to pursue music in New York—but she is the one in the throes of young love, and it is ultimately her decision to make.
Gran had planned to take Mia to her Juilliard audition in San Francisco herself, but she sprained her ankle at the last moment, and Gramps stepped in to escort Mia. After a grueling audition that requires her to play five pieces, Mia and Gramps spend the weekend together in the city, shopping and dining. At the end of the trip, Gramps hugs Mia tightly, rather than giving her his usual handshake or back pat. She translates this as him telling her, in his own way, that he had a good time on their trip.
While Mia’s love of the cello and of classical music were always aspects of her personality that made her feel distant from her family, here they allow Mia to feel closer to Gramps and more secure in her future ability to study the cello.