In high school, Gifty had a week of terrible nightmares that she couldn’t remember. She didn’t want to worry her mother, so she didn’t say anything. She just tried to keep herself awake watching TV. When that failed, she prayed. And when that failed, she talked to Nana. She told him all kinds of things, and the only rule was that she couldn’t use his name directly, or she would ruin the magic of the conversations. One night, her mother found her, and when Gifty confessed that she was talking to Nana, her mother told her, “I talk to Nana too” and she thought she could hear him answer.
Gifty struggles to let go of her most important, most intimate relationship in the weeks and years after her brother’s death. Her overidentification of the mice with Nana suggests that, even in the story’s present, she hasn’t quite resolved this issue yet. Although she seems somewhat ashamed of her need to talk to him—resorting to it only after distraction and prayer have failed—this is an important moment of bonding between her and her mother. They both are still suffering from his loss and at least some of their reactions to that pain are the same.
Gifty finally told Anne about Nana’s overdose the night before Anne was taking the MCAT. They slept together in Gifty’s bed that night, Anne crying herself to sleep and Gifty’s heart growing hard toward her as she wondered what Anne could know about suffering. She never spoke to Anne again, ignoring weeks of increasingly frantic texts. The texts stopped when Anne graduated and Gifty went home for the summer.
When Gifty finally admits the truth to Anne, Anne is upset. But, as elsewhere in the book, readers can only interpret this event through Gifty’s experience, so they can’t know why Anne cries. Gifty decides that Anne’s response co-opts her own pain and decides to abandon the friendship. Her refusal to allow Anne to apologize seems like a way to punish her friend for her reaction to the story. But it also serves to punish Gifty for allowing Anne to become so intimate with her.