At the café William and Julia exchange pleasantries. William takes a brief phone call and explains to Julia that it was his girlfriend calling. He tells Julia that his life fell apart after he learned his mother’s story. He split from his wife and took his two daughters to visit Auschwitz, where he saw his grandparents’ graves and felt both peace and pain. William shows Julia some photos he has of his mother, describing her as “an intense person, and a loving mother.”
The dramatic changes in William’s life after learning about his mother’s history echo the changes in Julia’s life. Though these changes were ultimately for the better, this chapter underscores the fact that they were not made without pain. Sarah’s history continues to have a meaningful and dramatic impact on the lives of those who uncover it.
After looking at the photos, Julia hesitantly asks William if he has any “harsh feelings” toward her. He says he doesn’t, and that he did not get in touch with Julia because he needed time to process. When William’s girlfriend phones again, the conversation turns briefly back to pleasantries, though Julia longs to tell William that, every night for two and a half years, she has thought of him and his mother. William then confesses that he wishes he had accepted Julia’s offer to visit Beaune-la-Rolande with him, as it was “too much to bear alone.” He says that he also returned to the rue de Saintonge apartment, hoping to see Julia, and when the door was opened by a stranger he felt she had “let [him] down.” Julia recoils, and William apologizes for being insensitive.
It’s difficult to know what to make of Julia’s unspoken admission that she thinks of William and Sarah every night. In all likelihood, it is an indication that Julia is in love with William—however, Julia’s conflation of William and Sarah does seem to suggest that Julia’s romantic interest in William springs from some kind of psychological urge to feel close to Sarah. This section is also important because it shows that Julia is no longer afraid to stand up for herself, as she refuses to allow William to make her feel guilty, maintaining that she “never let [him] down.” This represents a dramatic transformation in Julia’s character, and suggests that any romantic future Julia might have with William would perhaps be healthier than her relationship with Bertrand, because she now has a stronger sense of self.
Julia relaxes, again experiencing the distinct, quiet comfort of William’s company. William discusses his children and asks about Julia’s baby. He is under the impression that the baby’s name is Lucy (when Julia entered the café, William asked young Sarah her name and she responded with the name of her toy giraffe, Lucy). When Julia explains that her daughter is named Sarah, William buries his face in his hands. Finally, he raises his “wrecked, beautiful” face and allows Julia to see the emotion in his eyes. Julia feels that “he want[s] [her] to see it all, the beauty and ache of his life […] his thanks, his gratitude, his pain.” Julia takes William’s hand and, closing her eyes, presses it to her face, which soon becomes wet with tears of her own. The two of them sit this way for “a long time,” until they feel their “eyes [can] meet again, without the tears.”
Like her namesake, young Sarah’s name is not revealed for several chapters—until now (she is initially referred to as “the baby”). The fact that Julia names her daughter after Sarah Starzynski means that there is now living proof of the profound impact that Sarah’s story had on Julia. The ambiguous yet sensual ending of the novel suggests that, despite the fact that they are both in relationships, Julia and William will, indeed, have a romantic future together, which will be all the richer for their shared bond with the incredible Sarah.