Counting by 7s - Chapters 29 - 32 Summary & Analysis

Holly Goldberg Sloan
This Study Guide consists of approximately 71 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Counting by 7s.
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In Chapter 29, Dell, Mai and Pattie all attend a memorial service for Willow’s parents. Willow remembers little of the service besides that it was people from her dad’s union who organized the service. There is a poster-sized picture of her parents that she recognizes but she can’t remember anything that was said about her parents. After the service, she is horrified when they are to release balloons, which she knows are bad for the environment, in honor of her parents, but she can’t bring herself to say anything.

A newspaper article announces a fund is being started for Willow’s education. Her father’s boss and Jairo Hernandez are the only two contributors Willow recognizes. Willow writes Jairo a thank you note and he calls her at Pattie’s store. After the phone call, she visits the library again, crawling behind her chair to watch the people from that vantage point. After some people watching and a nap, Willow sits outside on the front steps. She thinks of herself as just being. She wants to go back and finds herself incapable of conversation. She believes this is why the deepest form of pain is expressed in silence.

Mai talks to Willow about her life, Pattie is there for Willow and Willow has decided that Quang-ha hates her. She realizes she’s caused his life to be more complicated. Willow tries not to cause extra trouble for the family by using the bathroom last, and not mentioning that she’s a vegetarian. She makes it through the first month; but she notes that she no longer counts by 7s anymore because she thinks she no longer counts.

In Chapter 30, Dell arrives home to his apartment at the Gardens of Glenwood after dark. There are no gardens, only a rock filled courtyard with a few weeds. The stairs smell funny and the elevator does not work. After Willow’s parents were killed, Willow’s file was requested. He hadn’t sent them the results from all the tests from SATs to medical entrance tests that she’d aced. Dell feels caught up in a web of deception. At her counseling sessions, the two now sit in silence. He knows that she is studying him and it unnerves him. Also unnerving is the idea that he now cares about everything when he once had the easy job of not caring about anything. Meanwhile, Pattie hasn’t enrolled in foster parenting classes even though she knows a hearing is coming up soon.

In Chapter 31, Willow is pained when she hears the manicurists talk about their families. She realizes they are part of something, a family, which she no longer has. Willow compares herself to a tree that has survived fire. Even though they are burned, they begin to grow again. Willow hopes this will happen to her.

Willow describes Pattie as being the type of person who follows her mother’s saying that everything had a place and everything should be in its place. Willow believes she is the only thing out of place in Pattie’s shop. Pattie gets a phone call and Willow believes it is the call telling Pattie she will be free of Willow. Willow tries to be strong, believing she has caused nothing but problems for the family. She smiles at Pattie, who is still on the phone, but her lips quiver and Pattie tells the person on the other end they won’t be there until 6:45 p.m. Willow admires Pattie’s composure, comparing her situation to a time when she got hives just visiting the ocean. Pattie is on the phone with Dell telling him they have a home visit today. She orders Dell to come and get them.

In Chapter 32, Dell drives into the parking lot, then a few minutes later he, Pattie and Willow are headed to his apartment. Willow recognizes when she first enters Dell’s apartment that he is a hoarder but as she isn’t herself, she doesn’t enjoy this close up look at Dell’s emotional condition as she once would have. The living room is piled with magazines and mail while the kitchen counters are filled with disposable microwave trays and plastic cups.

Pattie and Willow follow Dell to where he has gone down a hallway and closed a door. In the bedroom they find Dell stuffing a sleeping bag into a sack. Although Dell tries to stop her, Pattie opens his closet door. It is packed with dirty underwear. Willow doubts the apartment can be made to look livable but Pattie believes she’s up to the challenge. Pattie picks out and Dell buys a dining table and chairs, a sofa and leather lounger as well as bunk beds and mattresses at the Salvation Army Store. Back at the apartment, she sends Dell to the grocery with a detailed list. While he’s gone she elicits the help of the moving men to get rid of all the trash. Dell doesn’t seem upset when he returns that his trash is gone so Willow decides he isn’t a true hoarder.


Willow continues her journey through the grieving process in this section of the novel, which covers about a month of time. It seems that this period of time is Willow’s rock bottom low time. She feels in the way with the Nguyen family. She even believes that Quang-ha hates her because she has made his life more unbearable. Willow continues to have a selective memory when it comes the things that involve her parents or their deaths. She can’t remember any of what is said at the memorial service, for example. Additionally, she’s lost interest in the things that used to preoccupy her mind. She doesn’t want to go to school, doesn’t want to think about gardening or medical conditions. She is tired and sleeps a good deal of the time. The thing she seems to concentrate on most is not being a burden to the Nguyen family.

Willow seems to perk up a bit when she and Pattie first look at Dell’s apartment. She recognizes his apartment full of stuff is a sign of psychological disorder. She indicates that the “old her” would have really enjoyed observing Dell and being able to see first-hand someone suffering from this disorder. With her grief heavy on her mind, however, Willow feels only a prick of interest that seems to die away when Dell is not terribly upset because Pattie throws his things away. Remember also, that while the reader knew from prior descriptions of Dell’s apartment and lifestyle what Pattie would be facing when she decided to use Dell’s apartment as her own, Pattie and Willow were unaware how inattentive Dell was to his housekeeping. Although the task of cleaning Dell’s apartment is daunting, Pattie takes it on.

Notice that in this section of the novel, Pattie and Dell really do go beyond the call of duty to give Willow a good place to live, even though they do go about it in an unconventional way. Until the first home visit is scheduled, Willow lives with Pattie in the garage. As soon as the first home visit is scheduled, Pattie goes into action making Dell’s apartment livable. Any other man might have refused to let a woman take charge of his home. Any other woman might have thought the work necessary to make Dell’s apartment livable was too much. Dell and Pattie dive in full force, however, even though Dell is mostly strong armed by Pattie into his part of the process.

Notice also that because Willow has spent much of her life communicating with plants and learning about life from them, she still sees her life in comparison with the plant world. In this theme of thinking, Willow recalls that she’s heard about trees that have been burnt in fires but have survived. Although they appear dead at first, these trees eventually begin to grow new leaves and recover from their trauma. Willow hopes that she can be as resilient as these trees, but is afraid she may never recover.

Discussion Question 1

What does Willow seem to remember most about her parents’ memorial service? Why does this portion of the service make an impression on her?

Discussion Question 2

What turns out to be the biggest problem with the Nguyen’s decision to pretend they live in Dell’s apartment?

Discussion Question 3

How does Willow think she fits in with Pattie and her family? Use examples from the book to support your opinion.


incapable, pumice, scrutiny, marginally, provocative, mortify, disposophobia

This section contains 1,457 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Counting by 7s from BookRags. (c)2016 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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