The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Five Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Saturday, Mum and Dad drive to see Daniel while Brendan and Tom visit Fin. As Tom and Brendan head out of Coghill, Brendan stops at Jonny's house and asks Tom to run in to pick things up for Fin. A girl Tom's age answers the door. Tom laughs at her Bart Simpson slippers and the girl introduces herself as Chrissy, Jonny's sister. She invites him in while she finds the box "for his granddad."
Chrissy's apparent belief that the box is for a grandparent, not Fin, only contributes to Tom's belief that whatever happened is shameful and should be kept hidden. In turn, this keeps Tom from making meaningful connections with anyone, as he feels compelled to lie to keep this secret.
Themes
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When Tom returns to the car with the box, he remarks to Brendan that Chrissy thinks the box is for their granddad. Brendan explains that Chrissy and Jonny's mother is a bit complicated, but the sheepskin items in the box belonged to their dad. He had a stroke and died one winter of pneumonia. Tom understands that the sheepskin items are to keep Fin warm during his first winter. Brendan sighs and explains that Jonny's mother is as religious as Gran and thinks alcohol is evil, so he didn't want her knowing the truth.
Brendan's discussion of Jonny and Chrissy's mother's relationship to religion shows that Gran's relatively positive relationship with religion certainly isn't the only one available. Just as Gran is able to use religion as a tool to connect with others, this woman uses it as a tool to ostracize those she deems unworthy.
Themes
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Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
After a few minutes of silence, Brendan says that Daniel isn't doing well. Tom grouses that nobody tells him anything, and Brendan says that they don't actually know much—that's why Mum and Dad went alone today. Tom turns on the radio to end the conversation. He thinks that in an hour he'll be able to smell the salty water of the ocean. That smell used to be one that brought excitement. Brendan notices Tom smiling, and they reminisce about how Pa would take them all to the beach, but only after he’d spent time betting in town first. Tom says that once, Daniel left the car and was gone a long time. He and Kylie ran inside to tell Pa, and Pa punished Daniel. Later, Daniel punished Tom for telling: he held Tom underwater and promised to kill him.
Through Tom's memories of Pa throughout the novel, it becomes increasingly clear that Pa wasn't a great person. He played favorites with his grandchildren, had a betting problem, and it's implied he never thought much of Brendan. However, these facts don't stop Tom and Brendan from enjoying the time they did spend with their grandfather. All of this works together to give Tom a model for how he can eventually learn to see Daniel as a complex person, not just as his brother or just as someone who drove drunk.
Themes
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Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Tom walks into the hospital and greets Fin, stopping himself from slapping Fin's hand like he used to. He tells Fin that he's here with Brendan and notices that the sign on Fin's bed reads "C5 incomplete injury"; Tom doesn't know why the sign doesn't just say "quadriplegic." Next to it is a picture of a saint. Fin introduces Tom to "Gran's boyfriend," Saint Osmond. They laugh until Fin says that Saint Osmond is the patron saint of paralysis.
Saint Osmond is a way for Gran to feel like she's doing something important and tangible to help Fin. In some ways, she is: he provides Fin and Tom a way to connect with each other and start to rebuild their relationship, even though this start is rocky.
Themes
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Fin curls his lip and asks about Tom being a "Coghill boy" now, but then apologizes for sounding harsh. Fin softly admits that he spends his nights thinking about the accident, and it scares him. Tom whispers that he thinks about it too, and Fin says that he's starting to remember things. Tom wonders how much Fin actually knows or remembers; he suffered a lot of memory loss. Fin says he remembers Daniel swaying and yelling and being very angry, looking for Claire. He remembers Daniel shoving Tom up against a pole, and Tom says that Daniel called him a "groveling little prick." Fin doesn't remember that.
It's worth noting here that Tom and Fin are able to talk about the accident with each other in a way that Tom isn't able to with others. This speaks to the strength of Tom and Fin's relationship. However, the fact that Fin doesn't remember everything allows Tom to control where this conversation goes to a degree, as he doesn't have to fully acknowledge some things, given that Fin doesn't remember them.
Themes
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Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Brendan and Aunty Kath walk into Fin's room. Aunty Kath's big sunglasses can't hide that she's been crying. As she hugs Tom, Tom notices that her arms are huge and strong from rolling and lifting Fin. Brendan and Aunty Kath launch into a loud discussion of Gran's recent cooking disasters as a patient is wheeled into the room. The man starts to yell for the orderlies to leave him alone. Tom wants to be anywhere but here. Fin suggests that Tom has had enough, but Tom insists he's fine and excuses himself to the bathroom. He thinks that the night of the accident should've been happy and celebratory.
The seemingly solid relationship between Brendan, Aunty Kath, and Tom indicates that the accident didn't fully break the family apart. Kath’s tears and Tom excusing himself, on the other hand, suggest that they're all still trying their best to adapt to the new shape of their family and find ways to support each other now that things have changed.
Themes
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That night, Tom felt like himself until Snorter steered the car around the last bend. When Tom saw Daniel's car on its side against a tree, he felt like everything changed forever. Tom jumped out and ran towards the car, noticing Daniel stumbling away.
This moment can be read as one of two coming of age moments for Tom in the novel. Here, he's thrust into adulthood via trauma; recovering from that trauma will bring about his next coming of age moment.
Themes
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