July 2. Laura takes Jonny to baseball camp and comes back excited about a gas station where she can buy five gallons for $75. Despite the temperature being near 100, Matt decides it’s time to start chopping firewood and sends Miranda to gather kindling. When she’s done that and other chores, he encourages her to visit Sammi and Megan. Sammi isn’t home, but there is still laundry on the line, so Miranda knows the family hasn’t left.
The character’s varied perspectives are striking. Laura doesn’t mind paying more per gallon for gas, because the fuel is more valuable than money. Despite the heat wave, Matt is thinking ahead and chopping wood. Miranda is attempting to salvage friendships, despite them feeling less important.
At Megan’s house, Mrs. Wayne looks ecstatic to see Miranda and sends her up to Megan’s room—asking her to talk some sense into her daughter. Miranda thinks Megan looks thinner, but more striking is the fact that she “glows” with happiness during a time when everyone else is miserable. Miranda catches Megan up on her life, but when it’s Megan’s turn to talk, all she speaks about is religion and salvation. She’s going to church every day—sometimes sneaking out at night to go pray with Reverend Marshall.
Megan’s “glow” of happiness is at odds with the current events. Despite this, Miranda isn’t jealous of Megan’s religious convictions. The fact that Megan is upsetting her mother and sneaking out to go to the church are strong signals that all is not right with her congregation and Reverend Marshall. Megan’s words confirm this for Miranda.
Megan brings up their friend Becky, whom Miranda has been dreaming of frequently. Megan says that she was so angry at God after Becky died, and it was Reverend Marshall who talked her out of this and made her see God’s plan. Reverend Marshall is now counseling her that the disasters are God’s will. Miranda protests that it can’t be God’s will for Megan to starve. Megan counters with prayers and says that true happiness comes from salvation. The two of them cannot find common ground with religion, so Miranda leaves Megan praying and goes home to collect more kindling.
This section highlights the different ways that Miranda and Megan deal with similar problems. While Megan turns to religion and Reverend Marshall, Miranda puts her faith in actions—her response to Megan’s prayers is to go home and continue gathering firewood. Rather than hoping for death/salvation like Megan, Miranda is planning for survival in the here and now.
July 3. With Jonny off at camp, Laura suggests that she, Matt, and Miranda cut back to two meals a day. Even Matt is shocked, but he quickly agrees. Miranda agrees mores slowly, while jealously picturing Jonny eating the fresh food from the farm attached to his baseball camp. She thinks ahead to the month she’ll be spending with Hal and Lisa. She imagines an idealized version of their town where supplies and electricity are still plentiful.
Despite having heard from Hal that conditions in Springfield are similar, Miranda imagines it as a utopia. She needs to hold onto this idea that things are better elsewhere—both as a source of hope and to mitigate her jealous feelings about Jonny eating more and herself going hungry.
July 4-6. Miranda experiments with which meal to skip—breakfast leaves her too hungry to swim, but she feels guilty watching Laura eat only a half portion at lunch. She settles on eating brunch and dinner. She struggles with resentment toward Jonny, who is being well fed at camp, and with comparisons towards past Fourth of Julys when there were fireworks and parades and things to celebrate.
Meals may have become less frequent, but they’re highly important and emotional, and now associated with ideas of guilt and sacrifice.
July 7. The electricity turns on for the first time in a week full of very hot days—they run around turning on the A/C and dishwasher and washing machine—but it only lasts for ten minutes. After finishing the laundry by hand and hanging it up to dry, it starts to rain and storm. Everyone’s tension is high, and when Matt stays out chopping wood despite the storm, Laura and he get in a yelling match when he returns. While they’re arguing the electricity comes back on for forty glorious minutes. Miranda ends her entry by debating which is better: no electricity, or unreliable electricity? Life as she’s living it, or no life at all?
The questions that end this chapter are posed to the reader as well. At what point does life stop being something that is experienced and start being just a series of repetitive, meaningless actions? At what point does the cost of living make it not worthwhile? Miranda doesn’t come up with answers to these questions, but leaves them to linger in her journal and with the reader.
July 9. Something feels different when Miranda wakes up. It feels slightly cooler than the hundred degree temps they’ve been having, and the sky is a strange gray—but not cloudy or foggy. Miranda asks Matt and Laura about it, and they tell her that the moon’s increased gravitational pull is still causing earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods—but now it’s caused volcanoes to erupt all over the world for the past few days. This has caused the sky’s strange gray color—it’s an ash cloud blocking out the sun, which means crops will die and major climate shift could occur.
While things have continued to be hard in Miranda’s life, she hasn’t considered that there would be new forces that could make things worse. The ashy cloud, which disquiets Miranda immediately, is going to have larger implications, and again demonstrates Miranda’s naivety, as well as the fact that Matt and Laura are still sheltering her as much as possible.
When Miranda asks how long this could last, she’s terrified to hear that it’s a global problem that may not clear for more than a year. Laura tells her that up until this point they’ve been “playacting” at survival, and that now things are going to get serious and they can’t count on the garden. Laura says she’ll only eat one meal a day and, Matt and Miranda agree to cut back too—fasting one day a week and eating two meals three days a week and one meal the other three. They make a plan to start stockpiling water in case the well runs dry and to boil it before drinking from this point forward. Miranda decides to go swimming while it’s still warm, but finds herself shivering when she gets out of the water. She ends the entry by stating that the lists of the dead are about to get a lot longer.
The news about volcanoes doesn’t seem like it should impact Miranda at first—but as Laura and Matt explain the long-term impacts, Miranda realizes how interconnected everything about the planet is. While she may not be facing lava, her life has just gotten significantly more difficult. Laura’s statement about ‘playacting’ sounds insulting, until those feelings are quickly overridden by fear about cutting back on food even more. With the grim closing line, the reader is left wondering if Miranda is picturing her own name.