After the fiasco with the family in Virginia, Anderson comes to Janey with the article about Tommy Crawford, who went missing six years ago. Even though Janey is reluctant to continue, she is eager to help Noah. So she makes the resolution of going there without telling the family. She doesn’t want to hurt another mother, so what she intends is to pursue this direction only if Noah recognises something.
The three of them travel to Ohio, and when they reach the house, Noah keeps jumping up and down saying that this is it. Denise is not in the house, but Charlie arrives. Janey talks to him, and he invites them in. When Denise arrives, Noah rushes to hug her, and Denise gets so nervous when the boy keeps calling her mama. At some point she disengages her legs with such strength that Noah falls back and hits his head. Later Jerry and Janey sit with Denise while Charlie took Noah to the kitchen to watch television. Denise logically is sceptical and angry, thinking Janey and Jerry are playing a joke on her for some obscure reason, so she asks them to leave her house. Then when Janey goes to find Noah, he is gone.
Janey is desperate and out of her mind with worry as she drives around the town trying to find Noah. The boy had gone to find the person who killed him: Paul. The young man is an alcoholic, and when Noah keeps asking why he hurt him, I was afraid for Noah. Instead, Paul flees, and from his memories we learn what happened when Tommy died. Paul had been upbraided by his father, and feeling angry, he went to find his father’s gun and had gone to do some shooting practice. Being alone wasn’t such fun, but there was nobody, and then Tommy, who was on his way to his friend Oscar’s, stopped his bike and admired the gun. When Paul suggested he could go with him to do some practice, Tommy decided to follow the slightly older boy. Paul put some bottles on the edge of a well in the forest and shot the bottles. He was a good shot, and Tommy was impressed. Then before it was Tommy’s turn, Paul shot twice, once to a bottle which cracked into smithereens and the other time to a metal bucket. That was the mistake. The bullet ricocheted and hit Tommy. Paul panicked, thinking that he had killed Tommy, and in his panic he decided to throw the body into the well. It is when he had done so that he heard his voice, asking to be let out, but it was too late. Paul knew he couldn’t help him, and he was much of a coward to ask for help, so he left him to die there. Now in present time the police arrest him for Tommy’s death and send him to prison.
As for Noah, Charlie finds him in a place he and Tommy went as children. Charlie and Noah talk, and Noah tells him about his death and how hurt he is that Denise doesn’t want him. Denise, though, has remembered the place and heard the boys, and when she appears, she hugs Noah, feeling connected to him. The three of them return to the house, and then Noah has an asthma attack and has to be taken to the hospital. In hospital I felt terrible for Janey as she sees her son so attached to Denise. However, when she is about to leave the room for a moment, Noah calls her, asking her not to leave him.
Then Tommy’s bones are found in the well after Paul confesses, and there is a funeral. Noah and Janey stay there, and I like the conversation between Noah and his mother. He tells her about how happy he is that he came to her and she is his mum. He also tells her about seeing her on the beach and coming to her.
When they leave Denise and her family, Noah has mixed feelings and he tells Janey that he wants to go home but also to stay, and Janey tells him that we can’t always choose. Janey leaves, and Denise promises to visit them sometime.
In the prologue we learn that Noah phoned Denise at the beginning, but their conversations were stilted and strange, and then the calls petered out. Two years later Denise, who has made up with her husband, goes to see Janey and Noah. Janey tells Denise that Noah doesn’t talk about Tommy any longer, and when Denise appears, it is clear that Noah doesn’t remember her, and when Janey calls her Aunt Denise, the boy is uninterested. Like Jerry had predicted, he has forgotten and accepted his present life.
Denise also visits Paul in jail after the young man sent her a letter, telling her how sorry he was. Paul can hardly look her in the eye, and he simply tells her that he is very sorry about Tommy, and his death was an accident, but he accepts his blame for leaving him in the well when he could have helped her. Paul accepts that he can’t ask her for her forgiveness, and Denise surprises him by saying that she has realises that nothing good comes from clutching onto hatred, and when the visit finishes, she asks him to write to her and telling her how he is doing. I think this is a nice resolution for these two people.
As for Jerry, he leaves America for Thailand, and after a couple of years as he notices his degeneration, he decides he doesn’t want to live any longer. Janey gets an email from him with the word ‘Beach’, and she writes back but doesn’t get a reply. We learn later that what he had meant to write was ‘Goodbye’. He wanted to say goodbye to her, and then we see him on the beach and going into the sea where he finally dies.
I liked the book. It was very interesting and thought-provoking. What I found a bit far-fetched is Noah and the way he talked and expressed himself. He is a four-year-old boy, but I didn’t get that impression, especially when he meets Denise and Charlie. He talks as if he were much older, so I found that part a bit unbelievable. Yet, all in all, I loved the book.