Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
November 7. Miranda finds Mrs. Nesbitt dead when she goes to visit her. Miranda kisses her cheek, then follows the directions Mrs. Nesbitt had given her about taking her supplies. While ransacking the house, she finds a box of old baseball cards to put aside for Jonny for Christmas and chocolates for Laura. More importantly, she finds food, medicine, and others supplies. She realizes that Mrs. Nesbitt has likely been going hungry to save supplies for them, and that Mrs. Nesbitt’s well hasn’t run dry. Miranda fills a bag with supplies and walks home through the woods to avoid being seen—and stops to give Matt the news.
Miranda models her attitude about Mrs. Nesbitt’s death on the pragmatic attitude her elderly neighbor had shown in facing it. She is very methodical as she inventories the house for useful items. The moment her stoicism cracks is when she realizes that even before her death, Mrs. Nesbitt must have been sacrificing her own comfort in order to save supplies for the Evanses.
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Matt, Jonny, and Miranda make a plan on how to transport the supplies from Mrs. Nesbitt’s house to their own. They need to do so quickly before anyone else catches on and begins raiding. Matt drives Laura’s van over, while Miranda fills up Mrs. Nesbitt’s car and drives that to her house, despite never having driven before. Jonny takes firewood in a wheelbarrow.
While Matt, Jonny, and Miranda loved Mrs. Nesbitt, they have to be focused on the task at hand—figuring out how to transport those supplies before others notice and begin to ransack her house. The noise of cars is so unusual that they know it will spark notice from any remaining neighbors.
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While Jonny and Matt bring Mrs. Nesbitt’s body to the hospital, Laura and Miranda reminisce about Mrs. Nesbitt and the special items she had bequeathed to each of them. Then they get to work organizing supplies.
Even honoring the dead and sharing memories are done on a timetable. Later there will be time to reminiscence, but first they have to complete survival-related tasks.
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November 8-10. Miranda finds Laura crying in the pantry over Mrs. Nesbitt. Peter also stops by to comfort her.
The pantry is one of the few places in the house that is still private—it’s also off limits to the Evans children.
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November 11-15. Miranda thinks it’s funny that the Post Office is closed for Veteran’s day, but is less amused when she weighs herself and realizes she’s down to 96 pounds. She doesn’t think any of them are in danger of starving yet, but realizes they’re unlikely to get any more supplies and need to be careful.
Miranda rarely has the chance or privacy to consider her reflection or how her body has changed. There is no room for vanity in their quest to survive, and her self-assessment is detached and clinical.
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November 18-26. On two consecutive Fridays Matt brings exciting things home from the post office. The first is letter from Hal. Unfortunately, it’s an older letter than the latest they’ve received. While it doesn’t contain new information, it still feels hopeful to know that mail is at least being delivered. Miranda debates whether she should miss the people who are alive more than those who are dead—but they’re all gone from her life, so it doesn’t make much difference.
Miranda’s feelings about Hal’s letter are complex. She’s excited to receive it, disappointed to discover it’s old, and hopeful that there will be more news, but ultimately conflicted by the fact that she doesn’t know if she’ll hear from him again, and that he feels absent in the same way as those she knows are dead.
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On the second Friday, Matt brings home Peter and a small black market chicken to celebrate Thanksgiving, which had been the day before when they hadn’t been feeling thankful, but now Miranda is almost delirious with the joy of having had real food.
Miranda has no moral objections to Matt getting something from the black market when that thing is food. She doesn’t want to conjecture what he traded for it though.
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The next day even Laura’s spirits seem revived and for the first time in months, she hassles her kids about their neglected schoolwork. They each choose a subject to study, and though Miranda grumbles, she’s grateful to have something ‘normal’ to do.
Laura’s attitude toward schoolwork is a reflection of how hopeful she’s feeling about her children’s chances of survival. When she’s despairing, it becomes unimportant to her.
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November 30-December 1. Miranda avoids schoolwork by going for a walk to Mrs. Nesbitt’s—where, despite it having been ransacked, she finds a set of colored pencils to give Matt for Christmas—and by going skating at Miller’s Pond. Miranda enjoys the time alone, and questions whether or not Brandon Erlich was ever really there. She notices the lake surface has been hacked for drinking water. They still have water at home, thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt’s well, but she, Matt, and Laura are down to one meal a day.
Miranda is so desperate for privacy that she’s grateful that Brandon Erlich isn’t at the pond—though she’s not sure he was ever really there. Yet even on her precious walk alone she’s thinking of her family, as evidenced by her search for a Christmas present for Matt.
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