Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
May 7. Sixteen-year-old high school sophomore Miranda Evans records in her journal that her dad, Hal, has called to tell her that his new wife, Lisa, is pregnant. Miranda is home alone when Hal calls, as her mom, Laura, is taking her younger brother Jonny to baseball practice and Miranda’s older brother Matt is away at college. Hal is very excited about the new baby, and Miranda tries to sound excited too.
We are introduced to Miranda, and through her perspective, her family as well. Miranda thinks affectionately of both her brothers—and despite the divorce, she’s close to her father and doesn’t want to disappoint him with her apathetic reaction to his baby news.
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Miranda then talks to Lisa, her new stepmom, and congratulates her. Miranda tries to dislike Lisa, but always finds that she’s very nice. Lisa asks Miranda to be the new baby’s godmother, and Miranda feels overwhelmed by this request, but agrees. Miranda then talks more with Hal, and they discuss Miranda’s desire to start ice-skating again, as well as Brandon Erlich, a local skater with Olympic ambitions.
Miranda’s begrudging affection for her stepmom shows how she values her relationships with her family. Because she wants to please others, Miranda is unable to turn down Lisa’s request to be godmother. At the same time, Miranda is still primarily concerned with herself, and worries that this role (which is clearly important to her dad and stepmom) might mean new responsibilities for her.
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Later on, after the phone call is over, Laura comes home and Miranda tells her about the baby. Laura says that’s “nice,” and Miranda thinks about how her parents tried to have a “good divorce.” Miranda then thinks more about becoming a godmother, and wonders why Matt and Jonny weren’t asked to be godfathers. She hopes Lisa will change her mind about the request.
Once again, Miranda’s relationships with her family are emphasized. It is clear how emotionally bound she is to them—especially her mother—and how much she wishes for stability. Rather than feel proud that she alone was asked to be a godparent, she worries about her brothers’ reactions.
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May 8. On Mother’s Day Miranda volunteers to cook dinner for her mother (Laura) and their neighbor Mrs. Nesbitt. Miranda’s friend Megan and her mother (Mrs. Wayne) were also supposed to attend, but Megan calls to say she’s decided to stay at church instead. Even hours later when she’s writing in her journal, Miranda is upset by Megan’s decision, and by how much time Megan has been spending with her youth group. Miranda thinks of the various disagreements she and Megan have had about Megan’s religion—particularly a fight when Miranda said that Megan hadn’t found God, she’d just found Reverend Marshall. Megan had responded that Miranda has deified a figure skater, Brandon Erlich. The journal entry ends with Miranda annoyed about studying and wishing for summer and her driver’s license.
Miranda’s closeness to her mother is demonstrated through the dinner she plans and cooks for her and Mrs. Nesbitt, who, while not a blood relative, is considered part of their family unit. Megan’s last-minute cancellation upsets Miranda, both because of the effort she’d put into dinner, and also because she feels devalued by Megan’s choice of youth group over their plans. Each girl’s disapproval of the other’s priorities is a hint of how the conflicts between them will escalate, and foreshadows the role that Reverend Marshall will play in Megan’s downfall.
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May 11-12. Miranda recounts several events from her days focusing on grades, a vet visit for her cat, Horton, her friend Sammi being asked to the prom, and Megan making judgmental comments about Sammi’s dating life. Miranda is sick of Megan and Sammi fighting every lunch and longs for the time when their friend Becky was alive and they all got along. Since Becky’s death Sammi and Megan have both changed—Sammi began dating while Megan began spending all her time at church. Miranda feels that she didn’t change at all and has been left behind.
Before we even have a glimpse of the apocalyptic events to come, Pfeffer is foreshadowing the ways in which each girl will react to the disasters: Sammi will look for protection from men, Megan will turn to religion, and Miranda will stay pretty much the same—depending on the bonds of her immediate family to help her survive.
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That night while they’re doing the dishes, Laura tells Miranda that she has a date the next night with Dr. Peter Elliot. Miranda has a flash of jealousy at her mom’s social life, which turns into an argument about her desire to restart skating lessons with Mrs. Daley. Laura accuses Miranda of only wanting lessons so she can brag online about skating with Brandon Erlich’s old coach. Miranda responds by accusing Laura of loving her brothers, Jonny and Matt, more than her—even though she knows this isn’t true. Later that night, she and her mom make amends and Miranda longs for the future when she’ll be in college.
Fights with parents, sports, the Internet, sibling rivalry, college—these are all fairly traditional daily concerns for an American teenage girl. Throughout this first chapter Pfeffer is establishing normalcy. She’s giving the reader a glimpse of Miranda’s typical life as a baseline for the ways in which she’ll be breaking down that construct in future chapters.
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May 13. Miranda describes her summer plans—Laura has granted her permission for skating lessons, and she’ll spend the month of August with Hal and Lisa. Miranda offers her approval of the new man that her mother is dating: Peter, a doctor. Peter asks if the family has heard the news that astronomers have determined an asteroid large enough to be visible is going to hit the moon next week. Laura has heard this, but Miranda hasn’t. Later she brushes it off with a joke about her mom and Peter staying out late to watch the moon.
This entry starts with Miranda focused on the future—her summer plans—and ends by introducing the event that’s going to disrupt those and every other aspect of her life—the asteroid’s impact with the moon. This is a tipping point that signals change, even if the characters don’t know it yet.
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May 15-16. Excitement about the moon builds... at least among the teachers at Miranda’s school, who all assign projects based on the moon. Miranda predicts that she’ll be sick of thinking about the moon by the time she completes all of the essays and reports, but also thinks it’s interesting to consider how the moon she’s looking at is the same moon that people throughout history have shared. She gets permission from her older brother Matt to use his telescope to see the asteroid’s impact. Her family watches the news and learns that the impact should happen at 9:30 Wednesday night. The reporters say that asteroid collisions happen all the time—but that this one should be visible to the naked eye. Miranda debates whether the event is really worth all this coverage. She decides that while she doesn’t think it will be that interesting, at least it will be something different than her ordinary life.
At this point Miranda is still viewing the asteroid and moon collision only as it pertains to her. She complains about assignments and wants to know if her family can have a watch party. Her final conclusion, that at least whatever happens will be interesting, reveals how her perspective is currently self-focused. She cares about the moon only as a means to break up the monotony of her life.
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May 17. Miranda and Laura fight about mistakes on Miranda’s math test and her tendency to be careless in general. Miranda is working on her moon assignments in her bedroom when older brother, Matt, calls from college, surprising her because he never calls at 10 pm. He tells Miranda he has a “funny feeling” about the moon and wanted to hear their voices. Miranda, who idolizes Matt, is unsettled. She wants to know what could go wrong, since the asteroid is expected to hit the moon, not the earth. Matt warns her that sometimes people panic for no reason—and advises her to keep writing in her journal because she may want to read about the night when she’s grown. When Miranda gets off the phone she feels uneasy about Matt’s worries, but tries to rationalize it as stress about his college exams.
Matt’s phone call is the first foreshadowing that the moon collision isn’t just an excuse for school assignments or media hype. His instinctive unease and warnings for Miranda introduce the leadership role that he will play for her in the rest of the book. Matt’s comment about Miranda’s journal is also the first time its purpose has been directly addressed. This matter of why Miranda is keeping a journal becomes a central question of the novel as she increasingly wonders about its purpose and audience.
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