The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Eighteen Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Because Fin is almost ready to leave the rehab center, Tom's entire family plans to spend the school holidays in Aralen helping Aunty Kath move. Tom loudly complains about it at dinner one night, but Dad tells Tom very seriously that he has to go to keep Fin updated on what's going on in the outside world. He says that helping is their responsibility. Tom thinks that this is making Fin feel like a burden, and it's even harder since Tom is happy with his life right now.
Dad's seriousness suggests that he believes that it's his entire family's duty to do whatever they can to make up for Daniel's actions, regardless of their thoughts on the matter. The fact that Tom is happy with his life makes this even harder, as it suggests that Tom will have to consistently struggle going forward to balance his desires with his responsibility to family.
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Chrissy agrees with Dad that Tom has to go see Fin. She encourages Tom to actually try to talk to Fin, citing Tom's phone call to Matt as proof that he's capable of having tough conversations. Tom is somewhat annoyed as they lie on her bed. He tells the reader that they haven't had sex yet, though they want to. They just haven't found the right time yet. Though Chrissy isn't a virgin, she insists that she's never felt this way about anyone before and wants their first time having sex to feel like her first time too.
Though the conversation with Matt is never described, Chrissy implies here that it was the beginning of a new turn in Matt and Tom's relationship. This suggests that Tom is becoming more able to think critically about relationships with old friends and bring them into the future, where he's now a different and more mature individual.
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Tom walks around Aunty Kath's living room in her new flat, looking at all the contraptions she installed so Fin can shower and eat. He hears her telling Kylie and Dad that it's like having a baby again, and she admits that Fin is terrified to leave rehab. Dad and Tom throw themselves into unpacking boxes and assembling furniture. Kath and Kylie cook and shop for new clothes for Fin. Once, Tom notices Dad stuffing receipts in his pocket and is shocked to learn that Dad is paying for most of Kath's expenses. Dad darkly says that they'll never be able to repay their debt and they have no choice—Fin and Kath are family.
Dad clearly believes it's imperative to continue trying to make up for Daniel's actions. However, it's worth noting that what he's doing is something tangible that will actually make a difference, just like Daniel's new mentoring relationship with Theo is making a difference. This shows that giving back like this is the only way to truly find redemption.
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One clear day, Tom goes to the rehab center and takes Fin for a walk. They laugh that Fin's wheelchair reminds them of the soapbox races they used to have with Daniel on Daniel's Whine. Daniel would always make Tom push the cart back up. Tom points out that Daniel isn't bossing anyone around now, and after a moment of silence, Fin groans. Tom stops the chair and sits on a bench so they can both look out at the ocean. Fin whispers that he doesn't hate Daniel and says he got another postcard from Claire. He mentions that Kylie feels responsible, but says she was only trying to help. Fin admits he wanted to hit Daniel then, and Tom suggests he should have. 
The memory of Daniel bullying Tom reminds both Tom and Fin that Daniel wasn't actually a nice person all the time, while Tom's reply suggests that he may now be more convinced that Daniel's time in jail will be a good way to help him be better. Fin's admission that he doesn't hate Daniel suggests that Fin understands that the only way he can go is forward; fixating on who Daniel was in the past will only make Fin sadder and angrier.
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Fin says it's too late now for that and says that soon, maybe, he's going to see Daniel, since Daniel was like a brother. Tom wonders what the real difference is between brothers and cousins, given how close the three of them were. He thinks that this is why he wants to be with Chrissy—she's an escape from the pain Tom feels with his family. When Tom is with her, he feels like himself and isn't guilty about it. Tom knows now that what he missed the most the last year was himself, not Mum or Fin or Daniel or Mumbilli.
The choice to go see Daniel shows Fin accepting that family is extremely important, even though family is also what paralyzed him in the first place. Like Tom, this shows that Fin is beginning to understand that his relationships with family members will necessarily have to shift to accommodate the changes that have taken place.
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Related Quotes
Mum, Dad, and Tom return home for the last week of the school holiday. Kylie stays behind and one night, she calls to say that she's going to stay longer: Fin is having a hard time and she wants to make sure he's settled. Tom overhears Mum and Dad fighting about it. Mum is upset that Kylie will miss school and possibly Tom's birthday, which she insists they can't forget this year. Dad assures Mum it'll only be a few days, but Mum points out that Kylie is struggling. Dad asks if they're supposed to say that their physically capable daughter can't help. Tom knows that Mum and Dad don't understand the guilt Kylie is carrying, and wonders if this is her way of making things up to Fin.
The side of the argument that Mum chooses again suggests that she's more like Daniel than Tom is truly willing to give her credit for: while her desire for Kylie to come home is understandable, it's also somewhat selfish. This helps Tom to see that his parents are individual people with flaws of their own, which is something he realizes now because he saw Mum so low for so long.
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Tom finds the last week of the holiday blissful. He loves working on the chicken coop with Chrissy and Brendan. One afternoon Chrissy and Tom discuss being monogamous, but Mum interrupts them with cold drinks. Tom drinks his and gives Mum the look to leave. As Mum walks away, Chrissy notes that Mum is pale and thin. Tom says she's actually much better now and talks about the months when she only got out of bed to visit Daniel. He says that that time was weird, but it's almost weirder that he barely remembers what she was like then.
The fact that Tom barely remembers Mum's months of being so depressed indicates that the Brennan family as a whole is extremely resilient and capable of changing for the better—and in some cases, capable of moving past the awful things that happened in the past. This realization suggests that things have now settled into a new normal, and Mum is once again reliable.
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Chrissy suggests that that's a good thing, but Tom admits he didn't see Mum as a real person then—he only noticed that she was going gray and smelled. Tom says he's nervous about next week, since it's the anniversary of the accident. Matt told him that Mumbilli is having a service at the site of the accident, and Tom says he's too scared to go back. Chrissy and Tom lie back on the grass, holding hands. Tom says he's thinking about how ghostly the trees looked that night and says that Fin recently thanked him for staying with him the night of the accident.
Again, Tom's understanding that he didn't see Mum as a person when she was so depressed is pretty mature, which shows that Tom himself is coming of age and learning to see others as individuals in addition to himself. When he admits to Chrissy that he's scared to go back to Mumbilli, it reminds the reader that Tom still has a long way to go as he faces his fears, however.
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Chrissy asks Tom to talk about the accident. Tom says he remembers a disgusting taste in his mouth and being really thirsty. He remembers Fin's terrified voice as the paramedics cut him out of the car. Chrissy tells Tom that the accident will always be with him but eventually, he'll stop asking why it happened. Tom says that he's already sick of feeling awful about it all the time.
When Tom mentions mostly his memories of being with Fin and caring for him, it shows that the hours he spent with Fin were truly the seeds that grew into what Tom went on to learn about friendship: that it's more important than winning.
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Finally, Tom finishes the chicken coop and buys three hens and a rooster. On the morning of Gran's birthday, he blindfolds Gran and leads her outside, Kylie, Mum, Brendan, and Dad close behind. They pull the blindfold off and Gran stares at the chickens, dumbfounded. Tom notices a tear in her eyes. She walks into the pen and picks up her rooster. She declares that she'll name him after Saint Harvey, who was famous for miracles. The chicken squawks and Gran scolds him that if he's not quiet, she'll name him after Saint Benedict, the patron saint of bachelors.
Tom certainly knew that Gran would name the chickens after either saints or beloved Bible figures; his decision to get her the chickens anyway shows that he now recognizes the role that religion plays in Gran's life. She's able to have some control over her life by deploying her saints at particular times, even if it's simply to punish a noisy rooster.
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