December 2. It begins to snow. At first this is novel—dingy gray snow when they haven’t had precipitation in months—and positive, since they can collect it for drinking water. But quickly they become concerned about Matt, who is volunteering at the post office. As the day passes and snow accumulates, Laura forbids Jonny and Miranda from going to look for him, saying “I can’t risk losing two of you!” Finally, once it’s dark out, Jonny and Miranda decide to take turns standing at the end of their driveway with an oil lamp. When it’s Miranda’s turn, the wind blows her over and the lamp extinguishes. As she’s sitting in the snow panicking, Matt arrives. Even after they’re all safe inside and in dry clothing, Miranda finds the storm eerie.
The author creates a dramatic sense of suspense in this section by spinning out the story with lots of details. We know that Miranda must have made it safely back in the house because she’s recording the story in her diary, but the stark emotion and sensory details within her narrative build tension and create a panicked, fearful tone about whether Matt will make it home or Miranda herself will find her way back to the house in the blinding snow.
December 3-4. It continues to snow through the next day, resulting in more than four feet of accumulation. This is great for supplying water, but not great for the roof or how isolated their house is. Matt comments that their bikes will be useless and there aren’t enough cars to clear the roads, but he did see a pair of cross country skis in the garage. Laura worries about what would happen if they fall ill and needed help. They don’t expect the snow to melt before April or May. Working with pots and pans, they shovel out the garage door so they can open it to get to the real shovels and ladder. Despite Laura’s fear, Matt and Jonny carefully clear the snow off the roof of the sunroom while Laura and Miranda melt snow to wash laundry on the woodstove.
Snow brings the blessing of water, but also the dangers of potential roof collapse and being trapped inside. Despite this, it’s a change in routine during a time where their days have become monotonous and they’ve been lacking in purpose.
December 5-7. After being snowed in for a week, Miranda is getting antsy. Matt attempts to use the skis to get into town, but isn’t strong enough, so has to turn back. Miranda worries about how claustrophobic they’ll all feel if this continues.
Miranda’s concerns are valid. Until this point they’ve been able to go outside—even just for quick walks or Matt’s trips to town. Without those, it’s four grown people sharing one room at all times.
December 10-13. Jonny finally notices that the others don’t eat lunch. He says if they’re only eating one meal, he should too, but everyone protests. Miranda thinks that maybe Matt would be the best choice if only one of them were to survive, but knows that Matt would never agree to that. She thinks that she’d give up food entirely if it would help Jonny live. Miranda realizes how much bleaker things have gotten in the past few months and reflects that she should appreciate these as “good times” in comparison to what’s to come. Jonny asks Miranda if she minds that he’s eating when she’s not, and she reassures him, saying that if he survives when they do not, it will have made their lives worthwhile. Matt decides that instead of being hungry all day and then eating dinner before bed, they should eat breakfast and be hungry while they’re asleep. This small change makes life better.
A few months back, Miranda was having fierce internal battles over the fact that Jonny was being given more food than her. Despite this, when he asks her if he should eat less too, she emphatically disagrees. This change in perspective highlights how Miranda has matured and become less self-focused. She’s also started to come to terms with the fact that she may not make it, but if she doesn’t survive, she sees her sacrifices as having a purpose through Jonny’s life.
December 16-21. Jonny asks Miranda if she’s still keeping a journal, and why. She doesn’t have an answer for why—but says it’s not for him to read. He scoffs—he has enough problems, he says, and has no need to read what she’s written. Miranda also doesn’t re-read her writing, because each day she thinks that things are bad, but then each new day is worse. She realizes that Lisa’s due date has past and records her imaginings about the baby, who she’s pretending is a girl named Rachel. While Miranda has no guarantee that Lisa and Hal and the baby are even alive, she dreams of a beautiful future where things are better and they’re reunited, there’s plenty of food, she bumps into Dan and they get married. She realizes that her family must each have their own fantasy—the only place they have any time apart in their claustrophobic lives.
While Miranda may not be able to articulate her reasons for continuing to keep her journal, it is apparent to the reader that it’s an essential part of her day—it’s the place she processes her emotions and tries to make sense of her days. Looking back or lingering in the past—at the way things used to be and the things she used to have—isn’t productive, even when the past is only a few days ago. Looking ahead and daydreaming about meeting her half-sister and getting married, however, are a way of maintaining hope.