Counting by 7s - Chapters 53 - 56 Summary & Analysis

Holly Goldberg Sloan
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Summary

In Chapter 53, Quang-ha suggests Willow take her clipping project to the roof to be put in containers so the plants can root. Unfortunately, a leak in the roof is reported and the repairman puts all the plants in the Dumpster. Before she even gets home, the trash has already been collected and hauled away. Willow believes it is a sign she will be leaving soon as well. She tells Dell she can’t return to the past. He slips Mai a note to put on Willow’s pillow telling her that he wants her to take Cheddar with her when she gets her future home. He refers to the cat as a therapy dog.

Willow goes to Southside Nursery for advice. She also buys a carton of red ladybugs because she believes they are lucky. The owner comes and looks at her garden spot, and then says he’ll send some things over. She’s surprised when a large truck with a forklift pulls up the next morning. Harry has brought box bamboo, a cherry tree and flowering vines among other plants. When he tells her it is all a gift, Willow can’t respond because of the tugging she feels at her heart. As an additional surprise, a worker from Bakersfield Electric brings solar powered lights that will shine up through the foliage at night. The man, Lorenzo, explains to Willow the guys from the nursery called for a withdrawal from their favor bank. Willow believes she has lots of accounts of this sort with other people. Willow helps the man arrange the lights. When they’re done, Lorenzo gives her his business card, telling her there is a big lighting project he’d light for her to take a look at. She agrees, believing she will be repaying a favor. After the workers are gone, Willow and Mai sit on the steps and watch the looks on the residents’ faces when they arrive home. Quang-ha asks not to be told how Willow pulled off the garden. He wants to believe she is magic. She believes he’s finally accepted her. When Pattie sees the greenery she says the building now has the right to be called the Gardens of Glenwood.

In Chapter 54, Dell finds a letter from the Kern Department of Child Services in the mail. He gives the letter to Pattie, then he researches permanent guardianship. He wonders if he could be Willow’s guardian. Meanwhile, Pattie calls Jairo. They have gotten close and now she needs to talk to him about what to do. He doesn’t answer but she knows he’ll call back. Pattie promises herself she’ll do the right thing.

In Chapter 55, before bed, Willow explains to Mai that everything just put into the garden is in shock. The plants will need balance to thrive. The next day, Willow gets the news that Lenore Cole has found a permanent place for her. She will be placed in a group foster home on 7th Street. Willow asks to go to the library and Lenore offers to drive her. Pattie arranges for Dell to pick her up. Once they are together in the car, Lenore tells Willow it is time to move on. She is to spend the next morning at Jamison, then the hearing will be the following afternoon. In the library, she doesn’t cry, but thinks she won’t be able to live without Pattie, Dell, Quang-ha and Mai. Willow wonders what will happen to them once she no longer lives with them. Dell appears and sits beside her. He cries. She tells him she’ll be okay but that only makes him cry harder. She recognizes the heartbreak in his eyes.

In Chapter 56, after Willow went to the library, Pattie closed the salon early. At home Quang-ha is at the table doing his homework. Mai is on the bunk beds holding Cheddar tightly. Pattie tells Mai they will figure it out, that Willow’s placement is temporary. Quang-ha angrily tells him mother that after something has lasted for a certain amount of time, it can no longer be considered temporary. He tells his mother they shouldn’t let Willow go. As they stand together, they can hear the sound of the bamboo rustling outside. Dell wakes up and is not able to go back to sleep. Finally, he decides to go downstairs to water Willow’s garden. He notices new growth and blooms on the honeysuckle vine. He is sure it will be magnificent.

Analysis

The novel seems to reach a climax in these chapters. The situation, which was “temporary”, has reached a point that it either needs to become permanent or will be dissolved. Dell researches the requirements needed to get custody of a child. Pattie calls Jairo to discuss the situation with him. At the apartment, Mai and Quang-ha are angry because Willow is being taken away. Surprisingly, it is Quang-ha who reminds his mother that after a certain amount of time, even a temporary situation can begin to feel permanent. As the small family stands together, they hear the bamboo from Willow’s new garden rustling. The sound is an auditory reminder of all that Willow had added to their lives.

Notice also that although Dell has taken great strides in self improvement, he’s still his old bumbling self. Willow is both amused and distraught because Dell refers to Cheddar as a therapy dog. Of course, Dell’s heart is in the right place, he just doesn’t get his wording quite right.

As Willow has been comparing her situation to what is going on with her new garden, it must have been a terrible shock to her to discover that all the plants she’d been cultivating had been hauled away. Willow takes this as a sign that she, too, will be taken from the apartments by force.

However, one of Willow’s old friends steps forward with full-grown plants to fill the courtyard. It is a garden more beautiful than Willow could have made with the cuttings and clippings even after they’d grown for years. Willow never considers this surprise from an old friend could also be mirrored in her own life. When the call comes for her to go to court, she only believes she will be taken away from the place she has come to know as home. Notice that instead of worrying about herself, she puts the most energy into wondering what will happen to Dell and the others if she leaves.

It is in this section of the novel that Willow becomes acquainted with the idea of a favor bank. The men who come to install the lights in the garden tell her that they owed the nursery owner a favor and he’d decided to cash it in. Willow is fascinated with this idea and decides she should start her own favor bank. Ironically, she doesn’t realize she’s been adding deposits to her favor bank all along without even realizing it. She has brightened the world of two children who once lived in a garage and now have a home. She has given a lonely, single man a reason to clean himself up and care about others. She’s improved Pattie’s business and introduced him to Jairo, a man with whom Pattie has become close. And, she’s encouraged Jairo to go back to school, a decision that will not only be good for his future, but also helped him by earning him $20,000 in the college bookstore give-a-way.

Discussion Question 1

At this point in the novel, what do you think the future holds for Willow? Who do you think will step forward to take custody of her? Why?

Discussion Question 2

Consider the idea of a favor bank. How has Willow been building up a favor bank all along?

Discussion Question 3

Discuss the relationship between Dell and Willow. Despite their challenges, how have they helped one another? Do you think Dell would be an appropriate guardian for Willow?

Vocabulary

acceptance, perspective, defiant, hunched, encircling

This section contains 1,355 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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