Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
August 6. Miranda wakes up missing Sammi and Dan, whom she knows she won’t see again. She fears she won’t see Hal either. She states that she won’t “survive” if she never sees sunlight.
Miranda writes this entry as a hierarchy—with her dad as more personally valuable than Dan, who is more important than Sammi. But she ranks sunlight highest of all. This is a bit of Miranda’s personal dramatics, but also related to how Miranda’s immediate concerns for survival register even more than her father.
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August 7-9. The Evanses are all in short tempers after Hal’s departure. Matt snaps at Miranda for going into his room without permission—revealing that he’s exhausted, hungry, and furious at Hal for leaving him to be the father figure for Jonny and Miranda.
Throughout the story Matt has had to fulfill Hal’s paternal responsibilities. Hal’s decision to leave and journey west has just made those responsibilities permanent—which is emotionally exhausting for college-aged Matt.
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Despite the replenished food in the pantry, Laura has started skipping meals again, which scares Miranda, who sees it as an indication of them not having enough for whatever is ahead. This, combined with the fact that she can’t remember the last time they had any electricity, the lack of news in town, and the temperature dropping to not even hit 60, have amplified Miranda’s anxiety.
Each time Miranda dares to feel hope—this time in the form of a restocked pantry—someone’s actions will indicate that her feeling is foolish. The convergences of all these bad omens, plus the loss of her father, have understandably left Miranda emotionally drained.
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August 11. There is a light frost overnight. Jonny tells Miranda he wants to move south and has heard rumors from his friend Aaron, whose dad is on the school board, that some of the schools won’t be reopening. Miranda says they can’t leave Mrs. Nesbitt, and Jonny suggests splitting up and at least one of them traveling south. Miranda stops the conversation by telling Jonny things will get better. He grins and says that he’s been hearing that for months and no longer believes it.
In this conversation with Jonny, Miranda plays a role others often take with her—telling him things will get better. When she is told this, she tries to believe it, but Jonny is already more cynical than she is and finds this empty statement amusing. His proposal of splitting up is completely at odds with Miranda’s family-together beliefs.
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August 14. Jonny announces he doesn’t need any presents for his upcoming birthday. Miranda is annoyed that she doesn’t have a way of making a noble gesture like that, besides cutting back to two meals a day, which now feels “normal.” The family is worried that they haven’t heard from Hal and Lisa.
Miranda’s annoyance at not being able to think of a noble sacrifice is very in keeping with her constant need to compare herself to others and be “better”—though her definition of better is very situational.
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August 15. Miranda asks Laura if things have gotten better with floods and quakes and volcanoes. Instead of reassuring her, Laura emotionally responds to Miranda’s “How much worse can they get?” by detailing how volcanoes are erupting where they’ve never existed, the quakes and tsunamis are getting stronger, fires are burning, epidemics are spreading, farmlands have already had killing frosts, and a nuclear power plant exploded. They get in a horrible argument about whether or not Miranda realizes how lucky she is. It ends with Miranda saying she wishes she’d left with Hal since Laura doesn’t love her, and Laura telling her to get out.
Miranda asks her question not looking for an honest answer—instead she’s looking for reassurance—but her demands often force Laura into the position of having to deliver bad news. Since Laura is feeling helpless to protect her family, this combination of Miranda’s needs and Laura’s inability to meet them results in both characters angrily reacting to the way they’ve failed each other.
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Miranda bikes to Megan’s house. She is horrified when she sees how thin Megan has become, but glad that Megan seems happy to see her, and catches her up on her life. Megan is sympathetic and says she’s also struggling. She wants to make sure everyone’s soul is saved because Reverend Marshall tells her that these hardships are God punishing sin. While Miranda disagrees, they have a good time together, and she’s amazed to find herself laughing and enjoying time with Megan. As Miranda prepares to leave, Megan tells her not to come back. She says their friendship makes it harder for her to focus on God and be repentant. As Megan hugs Miranda good-bye, she realizes that Megan barely has the strength to stand, and she flees home.
There are moments in Miranda’s afternoon with Megan where their friendship feels like it used to—back before Becky died and Megan became fully absorbed by her religion. While Miranda cherishes these moments, Megan views them as sinful. It is because the girls can find comfortable common ground that Megan asks Miranda to never come back. Miranda’s friendship makes Megan want to live—which conflicts with the message that Megan’s being given by her church.
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Laura is waiting in the kitchen when Miranda returns and the two of them embrace and both begin crying and apologizing. Miranda reflects in her journal about how much she loves her mother and how much of a burden Laura has to carry. She ends by saying that if God is looking for sacrifices, her mom is making them.
The afternoon with Megan is a wake-up for Miranda about valuing the people around her and how much they care. While Megan had equated her friendship with sin, her family truly loves and appreciates her—and she feels likewise.
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August 18. The Evanses celebrate Jonny’s 14th birthday by playing baseball and having dinner at Mrs. Nesbitt’s house. Mrs. Nesbitt manages to make cookies, and Jonny gives a speech about the importance of sticking together, which makes Laura and Miranda cry. Miranda reflects back on her last birthday and the fights she had with Laura over having a boy/girl party. She can’t believe she was ever that young, or that things like that seemed important—and she realizes that this sort of indulgent innocence is a privilege that Jonny will never have.
Miranda is able to reflect not only on the ways she has changed and matured since the moon’s collision, but also on the ways Jonny has. They’ve all been required to grow up quickly—but Jonny’s been deprived of so much of his childhood. Even if things were to go back to normal—which Miranda now realizes is impossible—he’ll never get his innocence back.
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