The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Eleven Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tom had no idea that Aunty Kath was coming during Fin's move to rehab, so he feels caught off guard. Kath sends Kylie to shower and then tells Tom that Fin is fine; he's looking forward to getting out of the hospital and getting some independence. As she talks, Tom notices that she keeps looking down the hallway like she's expecting Mum to come out. Tom feels his appetite disappear when Kath mentions that Fin is looking forward to a getting a wheelchair and having a birthday party this year. Tom thinks that seeing Daniel is easier than seeing Fin; Daniel will improve, while Fin will never actually recover.
The differences in fate between Daniel and Fin reinforce how nonsensical and tragic the accident's aftermath is: while Daniel will certainly carry his grief and debt for the rest of his life, he's not a marked man in the same way that Fin visibly is because of the paralysis. This suggests that in many ways, Fin is paying for Daniel's decisions more tangibly than even Daniel is.
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A bit later, Kylie returns from her shower and Aunty Kath promises to make another strudel before Kylie's science class. Tom explains to the reader that Kath is an amazing cook, especially when it comes to cakes. She used to make Fin impressive birthday cakes, which he reasons she did because Fin's birthday was always overshadowed by Daniel's a week before.
Again, this aside about Aunty Kath's habit of making amazing cakes because of Daniel shows that the family wasn't actually perfect before the accident; conflict had likely been brewing for a number of years.
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When Tom gets home from school, Aunty Kath is still in the kitchen. Pots bubble on the stove and she's busy scrubbing the fridge. She snaps that she had to throw away half the food, as it and most of the fridge was covered in mold. Kath furiously stirs her sauce as Gran walks in. She gives Tom a strange look when he greets her cheerily. Gran watches Kath for a moment and says she thought that Mum was going to help in the kitchen. Kath snarls that she also thought that.
Aunty Kath's anger at Mum suggests that Kath is far more upset that the rest of her family isn't doing everything in their power to return to some sense of normalcy after the accident, given that Mum's depression makes it impossible to ignore that things are no longer the same.
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The next afternoon, Dad and Tom arrive home to find everyone in Mum's room. Mum is curled into a ball on the bed. Brendan sits with her, Aunty Kath paces, and Gran and Kylie stand against the wall. Kath and Gran explain that Daniel called, hoping to speak to Mum, and was caught off guard when Kath picked up. Mum frantically insists that Daniel can't be caught off guard in jail, and Kath retorts that Fin can't even move. Kath shouts at Brendan and Dad for letting Mum lie in bed and wallow when she has a responsibility to her other two children. Shakily, Mum says there are days when she just can't move. Kath snaps that that's a luxury—she has to do everything for Fin, from helping him use the bathroom to wiping his tears.
Kath can see clearly that Fin and Daniel aren't the only ones who are paying for Daniel's decision: Tom and Kylie have effectively lost their mother and as far as Kath knows, nobody else is stepping up to do much (as evidenced, in her eyes, by Dad and Brendan's unwillingness to force Mum out of bed). Bringing Kath into all of this makes it clear that in order for the family to move forward, it's going to need to be a group effort and everyone will need to accept that they're accountable to more people than they initially thought.
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Gran's house is quiet for the rest of the week, and Tom can't figure out why mass is a big deal on Sunday. Dad tries to make Tom wear his good shirt. Tom refuses and is perplexed when Dad explains that both Gran and Mum are coming. Tom steps out of the bathroom and is shocked to see Mum showered and dressed. Tom has to drive with Gran and he tunes out her lecture on Palm Sunday, hoping that Father Vincent is there today instead of his ancient and long-winded substitute. Fortunately, Tom is in luck, though Gran insists they sit in the front row.
The fact that Mum is up and coming to church suggests that Kath's words did have an effect and Mum can now begin to expand her awareness to encompass her two other children. When this comes about because of church service, it suggests that the Brennan family is beginning to rely a little more on Gran's preferred ways of finding community—and that Gran might have it right.
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Mum keeps her composure and instead of taking communion, she kneels and prays. Tom is just thankful she's up. He stands in line for communion and looks around at his Bennie's teammates, scattered throughout the church. Tom thinks that some of his teammates have potential, but not enough skill. A girl is singing a hymn by herself in the choir. Tom looks up and sees that it's Chrissy, and he doesn't want her to stop singing. He watches her wave at a guy down below and thinks that of course she's taken.
The possibility that the Brennans are starting to heal thanks to Gran's insistence that they lean on religion becomes more likely here as Tom begins to take an interest in the people around him, not just in his fears and concerns about his own life. In particular, his interest in Chrissy foreshadows that she'll be a major contributing factor in Tom's healing process.
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The first match that Bennie's plays is at the end of April. Daniel's birthday is days later, and Tom has grand plans for a birthday gift. One weekend morning, Tom goes to see Brendan at the sheds and makes up excuses for why he didn't join him for a run. Jonny comes out of Brendan's house in his boxers and Tom tries to play it cool. He thinks it makes sense that Brendan and Jonny are together. Tom tells Brendan that he'd like to make Daniel a scrapbook for his birthday like the ones Gran used to make. Brendan thinks it's a great idea and tells him that the old scrapbooks are in a wardrobe in Gran's house. 
Tom's desire to help Daniel by giving him mementos of the past suggests that while Tom desperately wants to escape the past, he also recognizes that it has the power to help him and Daniel move forward. This also suggests that he's aware of the power of the legend of the Brennan brothers, as it's likely that evidence of that is in Gran's scrapbooks and will remind Daniel that he does have a team looking out for him.
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As Tom starts to head back to Gran's house, he notices a car at the gate to come up to the sheds. He jogs over to open the gate and is shocked to see that it's Chrissy. Tom feels stupid in his boxers, tries to control an erection, and thinks his chest and arms are too skinny. Chrissy explains that she has tools for Jonny, and Tom agrees to carry the box to the shed. The box is almost too heavy, but Tom refuses to let Chrissy help him. She giggles as she drives away and as soon as she's out of sight, Tom drops the box.
Like Mum and Daniel, Tom has neglected his body in the months since the accident. When he recognizes that that's unattractive to girls like Chrissy, it again shows that Chrissy and female attention will be instrumental in helping Tom to move forward as an individual and work to make life better for himself.
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Tom takes a long time in the shower and Kylie teases him about masturbating. After finding clean clothes, Tom begins to go through the old scrapbooks. He flips one open to a newspaper clipping of “The Legend of the Brennan Brothers” and then flips backwards. Tom pulls out the scrapbook on the bottom of the pile, which looks new. He opens to the first page and comes face to face with a photo of Daniel's car against the tree and an article about the accident.
The fact that Gran clearly believes that the accident is worth commemorating in a scrapbook suggests that for her, talking about it and committing what happened to memory is an instrumental part of her healing process. It suggests that none of them should endeavor to forget, so that they won't make the same mistakes again.
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