Counting by 7s - Chapters 57 - 61 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.
This section contains 1,491 words
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Summary

In Chapter 57, Willow wakes up early before anyone else is awake. She takes her pillow and blanket and sits in the bathroom. Cheddar joins her. She watches the sun rise through the bathroom window. When the sun is fully up Willow showers but doesn’t do anything with her hair. She puts on her gardening outfit and puts the acorn Mai gave her in her pocket. She carries her red hat.

During breakfast, Dell and Pattie go outside to talk under the cover of getting something out of the car. Willow asks Pattie what will happen at the hearing. Pattie tells her not to worry. When Lenore arrives, Pattie tells her it isn’t goodbye, only see you later. Mai is upset enough for all of them. She looks at Cheddar but can’t bring herself to say goodbye to him. She asks them to water the garden and looks back before she leaves the apartment to see Cheddar sitting under the speckles from the broken glass on the skylight.

In Lenore’s car, Willow looks up to see Cheddar in the window. She finally whispers “goodbye.” She remembers that she did not say goodbye to her parents the day they died. That’s why she doesn’t want to go back to school, because it reminds her she didn’t even hug them before she went to school that day. She worries about what will happen to Pattie, Dell, Mai and Quang-ha now that she is gone.

In Chapter 58, Willow gets the Internet password for Jamison and hacks into Lenore’s email. She sees how overworked Lenore is and that she deals with children who are victims of criminal behavior and physical abuse. She next gets on Dell’s system of categorization. Willow is at first appalled by the system but realizes it is Dell’s attempt to make sense of the world and the people in it. As she finishes on the computer a lady comes to tell them lunch is ready. A girl sitting next to her cries when dessert is served. She has a burn on her arm and Willow wonders if that is why she’s at Jamison.

Lenore comes for Willow and takes her to a grief counselor. The counselor tries to assure Willow she’ll soon be back in the swing of things. Willow doesn’t tell her she never was in the swing of things. Back in the car, Lenore tells Willow that the judge will take responsibility for her. Willow reaches over and touches Lenore’s arm to let her know that she’s sorry. She realizes she doesn’t need more theory, just more experience with reality. Willow hopes to convey a positive attitude to the judge, even though she knows the stress she is under can lead to broken heart syndrome.

In Chapter 59, Dell puts on a suit and red tie. Pattie chooses her own clothing very intentionally. The two doves on her shirt symbolize love; the black skirt, respect; and the red slippers are for luck. In her history class, Mai knows the only thing that matters is what’s happening with Willow in the courthouse. She tells the secretary there is a family emergency and she has to leave. She also gets Quang-ha out of his biology class. On her way out of the school, she looks back and sees a decal of a sunflower. She believes it is a good sign.

In Chapter 60, Lenore takes Willow into a waiting area at court. Lenore is called out of the room. Willow realizes she could leave, but she doesn’t. Lenore still hasn’t returned when its time for Willow to see the judge. Inside the judge’s chamber she sees Dell, who is wearing a suit that is too small, Quang-ha, Pattie, Jairo and Mai carries a big bunch of tulips.

The judge tells Willow that Pattie and Jairo have made a formal request to be Willow’s guardians. She buries her face in her red hat as Mai tells her everything is going to be okay. It turns out that Pattie and Jairo are in a relationship. Instead of working late, as she’s been telling them, Pattie has been spending time with Jairo. Dell wanted to get guardianship but didn’t have the money. It turns out that Pattie has been hoarding money.

In Chapter 61, Pattie tells them she plans to buy the Gardens of Glenwood. Later that afternoon, Willow runs the loop, then sits down next to the bamboo. She knows she will remember this day many times. She suddenly also realizes it is the 7th of the month but she is not surprised. Seven is a natural number. It is the number of catastrophes, the number of the days of the week, the number of the colors of the rainbow, and Dell had seven categories in his classification system. She has decided that for every stage of living there are 7 people who matter. These are her mother, her dad, Mai, Dell, Quang-ho, Pattie and Jario. She decides from now on, instead of counting by 7s, she will count to seven. Willow shifts position where she is sitting and feels the acorn. She finds a good spot and puts the acorn in the ground. Two birds speak to her in their actions, telling her that life goes on.

Analysis

In this section of the novel, the reader finally learns why Willow was so adamant in not wanting to go back to school. The reason comes out as she is saying goodbye to Pattie and the others before she is taken to Jamison on the day of her court hearing. Her goodbyes are hard with the people who have taken care of her the past three months but she finds herself unable to say goodbye to Cheddar. It is only from the car as she glimpses him sitting in the window that she finally whispers her goodbye. She admits she’d planned to say goodbye and wonders if the act of saying goodbye really matters. She recounts how she’d left for school the day of her parents’ wreck and had not said goodbye to them or even given them a hug. She’s been carrying this guilt and lack of closure for months as she’s refused to go to school. The idea of going to school makes her remember that she never got a chance to say goodbye to the people who meant the most to her. She had thought that if she could avoid going to school, she could avoid the pain of her guilt.

Notice the symbolism used in this section of the novel. Willow, once again, decides she will be herself as she goes to the court hearing. Just as she’d done on her first day at the new school, she wears her gardening outfit. She does nothing to try to style or control her hair. She wants the people who deal with her on that day to see her as she really is. As always, Pattie lets the high priority she gives to symbolism drive even the outfit she picks. The doves represent love, while the red slippers are lucky because, of course, red is a lucky color. The black skirt indicates her respect for the judge. Even Dell wears a red tie. Notice that as Mai leaves school with Quang-ha, as she has just lied to get the two of them out of class, she looks back at the school and sees a sunflower decal. She believes this is a sign of good luck. After all, the sunflower has become an important symbol to the family as it was through these flowers that Willow began to heal and the family bonded with her through the gardening project.

There is symbolism also in the idea that Willow again begins to believe the number 7 is a lucky one for her. She hadn’t ever really lost her affection for the number, but now it seems to have a new significance for her as it is the day of the month on which Pattie and Jairo were granted legal guardianship of her. In the past, Willow had counted by 7s as a way to comfort herself or distract herself. Now she realizes it might be more comforting to count to 7 be remembering all seven of the people who have been significant in her life.

Discussion Question 1

What is significant in Willow’s act of planting the lucky acorn that Mai gave her?

Discussion Question 2

How did Willow’s memory of not having said goodbye to her parents affect her grief process? Why did she connect it with going back to school?

Discussion Question 3

Choose a significant symbol or symbols included in this section of the novel and trace its significant through the course of the story.

Vocabulary

insurmountable, random, caution, futile, convey, cardiomyopathy, indicator

This section contains 1,491 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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