Chapter 13 (and Part 3- “I Prefer You With a Crown”) begins with a scene depicted in one of the tabloid photos that will wind up in Kirsten’s collection after the collapse. The scene takes place fourteen years before the collapse, in a restaurant in Toronto. Arthur Leander and Miranda Carroll are discussing Miranda’s plan to leave her abusive boyfriend. As Arthur invites her to stay at his hotel so she doesn’t need to return home, the pair is surprised by paparazzi.
Mandel uses one of the photos in Kirsten’s collection to smoothly leap back to a timeline fourteen years before the collapse. In the very beginning of their relationship, Arthur and Miranda leave a restaurant and the picture is taken that will somehow survive the collapse and end up in Kirsten’s backpack.
Later, Arthur tells a journalist that Miranda (whose name he keeps from the journalist) is from his hometown. This hometown, we learn, is Delano Island, the same size as Manhattan except with only a thousand residents. The island is in Canada, and it is pristine, beautiful, and isolated from civilization. Arthur finds it difficult to explain the place to friends, since it was both “gorgeous and claustrophobic”; he both loved it and always wanted to escape.
Sharing a unique homeland is essentially what bonds Arthur and Miranda. This beautiful island is isolated and carries the feeling of claustrophobia. It has none of the anonymity or connectivity that comes with modern civilization. Both characters, then, were driven to escape their childhood homes and break into the larger, connected world.
Arthur left the island, we learn, at age seventeen when he was accepted into the University of Toronto. But within months, he dropped out and began taking acting classes and going to auditions. In the classes he meets his best friend Clark, and the two party and enjoy life until Clark goes to England for university and Arthur attends an acting school in NYC. Once he has graduated, he gets a job on Law & Order and slowly gets more and more roles until he moves to L.A. and ultimately becomes a success.
The drive to escape his homeland pushed Arthur to a huge city at the young age of seventeen. Arthur’s career then slowly evolves from partying as an unsuccessful actor in Toronto to acting as a budding star in L.A. Unlike his friend Clark, who changes careers, Arthur is one of the lucky ones who “makes it” in the field of acting.
In L.A. Arthur parties and acts, and at age twenty-nine he lands the lead in a low-budget movie that films in Toronto. One night, his mother calls and encourages him to get lunch with Miranda, a seventeen-year-old girl also from Delano Island who has just moved to Toronto. Though Arthur is a little hesitant, he realizes that finally he will be able to talk to someone who knows where is he from.
Arthur agrees to meet with Miranda because he longs for someone who understands his background. Without this common ground, he feels like there is a certain part of himself that goes misunderstood or unexplained. There is the sense that knowing where he is from will allow Miranda to truly communicate with him.
Miranda at seventeen is pale, beautiful, and poised, and she seems to Arthur to be older than her age. At lunch she tells him that she loves Toronto, and talks about her boyfriend Pablo. Like her boyfriend, Miranda is an artist. They talk a little while longer about their respective lives and part ways. Arthur continues to act in movies and plays, and he dates famous actresses and eventually becomes extremely famous himself. By the time he returns to Toronto for another film, he cannot go out in public without being photographed by paparazzi. Despite his fame, which he finds embarrassing, he decides to call Miranda after saving her number for years.
Arthur’s art has now been embraced by the public, making him extremely, even uncomfortably famous. The paparazzi and fame-obsessed public paint a superficial civilization that contrasts starkly with the post-collapse world. At the same time, it’s this fame and civilization obsessed with documenting fame that will allow Kirsten to collect tabloid photos as artifacts and mementos in the future.