Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
March 17. Miranda announces that she’s going into town. She knows that she doesn’t have the strength to make it there and back, but wants to spare Laura from having to see her die. She tells them she’s going to check for a letter from Hal about Lisa’s baby, but privately tells Matt the truth. She tells them all good-bye and begins the long walk through the deep snow. Miranda makes it to town, and it seems deserted. None of the houses have smoke and there are frozen carcasses of dead pets. The post office is closed—and even though this was just an excuse for her trip, seeing this deflates Miranda, who sinks down on the street—but then she sees a flutter of yellow paper. Miranda hasn’t seen the color in so long, and she chases it down the dingy gray street.
Much like Mrs. Nesbitt faced her death with calm and logic, Miranda makes a plan that will minimize pain to the rest of her family. She tells Matt so that he won’t expend energy searching for her, but knows it’s kinder to let Laura and Jonny believe her story. As she walks, she repeats that fiction to herself—until she starts to believe it, and is confronted with the truth in the form of a closed post office. In the midst of such detachment and despair, the yellow paper on the gray street symbolizes hope—and like a magpie attracted to something shiny, Miranda must have it.
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The yellow flyer reads “City Hall Open Fridays 2-4pm.” Miranda makes her way there and is surprised to find it open. Inside Mayor Ford and Tom Danworth introduce themselves and ask if Miranda is there to sign up for food deliveries. They joke about her skinniness and tell her that food distribution began four weeks ago, one bag per person, and that if she’s willing to wait until they’re done, they’ll drive her home and make sure she’s telling the truth about her family to get them all signed up.
Miranda scarcely dares to believe the flyer. If the post office wasn’t open, why would City Hall be? Despite this, it’s worth the effort, since she can’t make it home and has nowhere else to go. The sight of the glib men who joke about her skinniness is just enough to tip the scene out of too idyllic, but Miranda still isn’t sure it’s real.
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Miranda insists on carrying a bag of food herself, and when they arrive Mr. Danworth promises to come back on Monday with more of the supplies they’re owed. Laura sobs, Matt shakes Mr. Danworth’s hand, and Jonny pokes through the bag as Mr. Danworth reassures them that since they’ve made it this far, they’ll survive. After he leaves, Jonny begs to have dinner, “Just this once,” and Laura agrees. As they eat, the electricity comes on and it feels like paradise.
The reaction of each member of the Evans family to the food is in character—Miranda wants the credit, Laura is emotional, Matt is appreciative, and Jonny is curious.
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March 18-19. The electricity stays on long enough for them do a load of laundry and wash their hair. It then comes on later and they cook supper in the microwave, which feels luxurious, but even with the new supplies, Laura has started to worry about food again and whether deliveries will be as unreliable as the electricity.
While the others are still jubilant, Laura remains cautious. If the food delivery isn’t reliable, then their starvation still isn’t prevented, just prolonged.
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March 20. It is Miranda’s seventeenth birthday, and Mr. Danworth shows up with more supplies, promising to return the following week. Miranda reflects on how much she doesn’t know: the fate of Hal, Lisa, the baby, Grandma, Sammi, and Dan, but also on the blessings she has: Matt is climbing more stairs, they have firewood and water, and the temperature has been above zero for a week. She decides to celebrate the day and her family and their love. She also decides why she’s writing in her journal—for herself, to document what she’s going through now, so that when it’s over she can look back at a record of what she endured.
Miranda has worried so much about whether or not she has a future, and the delivery of so many supplies on her birthday is a symbol that she does. In this moment Miranda embraces the unknown, but also appreciates what she has. More importantly, she decides to look forward, to state that her journal is her legacy not for people to read after she’s dead, but for herself, for after this ordeal is over and she’s survived.
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