Olive's Ocean - Chapters 1 through 13 Summary & Analysis

Kevin Henkes
This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Olive's Ocean.
This section contains 1,736 words
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Chapters 1 through 13 Summary

In Chapter One, "A Beginning," Martha Boyle answers her front door to find a woman standing there. The woman introduces herself as Olive Barstow's mother, a fact that makes Martha "gasp." The woman says that she doesn't know if Martha really knew Olive well, but that Olive had left a journal. The woman then gives Martha a page of the journal, saying that she'd wanted her to have it. Martha pushes open the screen door and the woman hands her a folded sheet of pink paper. She then says "thank you, Martha Boyle," and steps off the front stoop, turning to walk away. The woman then got on a bicycle that was obviously very old and rode away. Martha stands still for a moment, watching Olive's mother leave, and thought before she could open the sheet of paper.

In Chapter Two, "An End," Martha recounts Olive's death. Olive had been riding her bicycle on Monroe Street several weeks earlier when she was struck by a vehicle. Martha had known Olive because they attended school together. Martha recalls Olive as a quiet girl, "a loner" who had tended to stay out of the mainstream of students. As she thinks about Olive, then comes up with the image of the little girl flying through the air after being hit by the car.

In Chapter Three, "Hopes," Martha reads the journal page. It's written in Olive's handwriting and Martha imagines Olive's "thin" voice reading it to her. The journal entry is written on June 7 and indicates that Olive's dream is to become a writer. She says that she'd like to write novels that evoke emotion, as books other writers have done for her. She then presents the first sentence of the novel she imagines she'd like to write: "The orphan's secret wish was that her bones were hollow like a bird's and that she could just take off and fly away." Olive then outlines other wishes she has, including that she could visit the ocean and that she would have the chance to live in a cliff overlooking the ocean "when I'm eighteen." The final part of that entry is Olive's wish that she and Martha could become friends. Olive ends the entry with the idea that Martha is "the nicest person in my whole class."

Martha feels "eerie" and admits that it's mostly because she's holding the journal of a girl who died and that they have some dreams in common. Martha wants to be a writer but hasn't yet told anyone. She loves her visits to her grandmother who lives near the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. She says that it also feels strange that Olive thought she was nice though Martha can't figure out what she'd done to make Olive think so.

In Chapter Four, "Martha's Father," Martha goes inside where her dad, Dennis Boyle, asks who was at the door. Martha says it was "no one" and doesn't share the information about the journal. Dennis says that Martha's little sister, Lucy, is napping, and asks that Martha keep an eye on her until her mom gets home. Martha agrees. The family is preparing for their annual trip to Martha's grandmother's house. Martha calls her grandmother "Godbee."

In Chapter Five, "Lucy," Martha continues to think about Olive as she watches her little sister sleep. Martha then decides to wake Lucy and does so, saying that Lucy is "the most beautiful baby in the world," which prompts Lucy to object, saying that she's two. Martha changes Lucy's diaper and then says they're going for a walk.

In Chapter Six, "The Corner of Knickerbocker and Monroe," Martha puts Lucy in her stroller and they set out. Martha watches the cars from the sidewalk near the place where Olive was killed, and isn't sure why she'd thought she'd some sign of the tragedy. Martha gets sidewalk chalk from the storage place on Lucy's stroller. She removes her bracelet and shapes it into an "O" on the sidewalk, then writes the rest of Olive's name there. Lucy grows impatient and they head for home.

In Chapter Seven, "Phone Conversation in Mid-July," Martha recounts the day she and her best friend Holly had talked about Olive Barstow's death when it happened that July. Holly says that she'd heard Olive's head was knocked off but Martha says that wasn't true. Martha says she wishes they'd been nice to Olive and Holly counters, saying that they weren't "not nice." Martha says she doesn't think Olive had friends, and that being lonely in that way would be awful.

In Chapter Eight, "Ms. Hubbard," Martha recalls that Olive had first attended her school in February and had died in July. The night after receiving Olive's journal, Martha's mother, Alice, comes home from work. Alice Hubbard works for Wisconsin Public Radio. Martha was proud of that when she was younger but was embarrassed later in life, and secretly referred to her mother as "Ms. Hubbard."

In Chapter Nine, "Vince," Martha's brother returns home from a friend's house. Vince is exactly one year older than Martha and the two had shared a bedroom for several years until Vince declared he hated girls and moved out. Vince now stops by Martha's room almost every night to visit.

In Chapter Ten, "Airplane," Martha plans to write on the plane. She is careful that no one can read over her shoulder. When she arrives, she's written only the words "Olive Barstow."

In Chapter Eleven, "Glittery Feeling," Martha describes the feeling of anticipation she gets when she's this near her grandmother's house. Then her mother bumps into her and urges her to "move," which Martha says puts an end to the "glittery feeling."

In Chapter Twelve, "Godbee," the family arrives at the home of Dorothy Boyle, Martha's grandmother. Everyone calls her "Godbee." Martha had been the first to come up with the nickname because she was unable to say "Grandma B.," which had been short for "Grandma Boyle." The name was intended to distinguish her from Alice's mother, "Grandma Hubbard." As soon as the family arrives, Vince is running off to see his friends, the Manning boys, who live nearby. Godbee urges that Martha not run off too quickly, a suggestion that Martha is happy to obey. Lucy and Alice are walking along the beach, exploring. Martha asks where Dennis has gone and Godbee says that he's likely snooping around in her possessions, looking for medication and other items to indicate how she's doing. Godbee says it's annoying, but understands that it's the "duty of a good son." Godbee then says that she wants to know something about Martha and suggests that each day they share a piece of information about themselves. Godbee says that could be the last summer together.

In Chapter Thirteen, "Just Fine," Martha asks her father if Godbee is going to die which prompts Dennis to confront Godbee about scaring Martha. Dennis says that Martha, at age twelve, would naturally take Godbee's words to mean that Godbee was dying. Godbee tells Martha later that she isn't ill and hadn't meant to worry Martha. That evening, Dennis becomes angry at Lucy's demands for banana baby food. He yells and leaves the house, and is gone for hours.

Chapters 1 through 13 Analysis

Olive Barstow's mother tells Martha "thank you" after she's given Martha the page from Olive's journal. Olive's mom obviously knows that Olive wasn't popular with other children and that she hadn't been surrounded by friends. She doesn't know Martha and so apparently realizes that Martha and Olive weren't close. Despite this knowledge, Olive's journal indicates that Martha had done something to gain Olive's admiration. Martha says at the time that she doesn't know what it could have been and it's obvious that Olive's mother doesn't know why Olive felt that way either. The important thing to Olive's mother is that Martha had done something that Olive saw as "nice." With the knowledge that Olive had no real friends, it seems that Olive's mom is happy to know that Martha had done something to brighten Olive's life.

Martha says that her father looks for almost any reason to get away from the house. The entire situation is not immediately revealed to the reader. Martha's mom, Alice, works outside the home while Martha's dad, Dennis, is a stay-at-home dad. Dennis is apparently working on a book and has been for a long time, though he has nothing to show for it. The fact that her father is a writer doesn't seem to have played a role in Martha's decision to be a writer though she admits that she doesn't want to tell her plans to anyone because she doesn't want them to think that she's doing it to be like Dennis. Dennis, meanwhile, is apparently not very good at it and is no longer happy with the situation. Martha says that Dennis is looking forward to the fall when school starts back so that the kids are out of the house. He will later admit to being unhappy with the situation and decide that he's going to return to the workforce, a decision that immediately makes him happier.

While Lucy and Martha are at the corner where Olive was killed, Martha turns her back to the traffic and puts one foot onto the surface of the road. She seems to be trying to feel what Olive felt just before her death. Martha seems to feel a need for a greater connection with Olive, probably because she's only realized that she touched Olive's life without meaning to or realizing it.

Godbee points out that Dennis is "snooping" around in her possessions, looking for her medications as an indication of how she's doing. Godbee notes that she isn't happy about it but that she understands his concern. Soon after this conversation, Godbee says to Martha that they have to enjoy their time together because it could be their last summer vacation. It's not clear what prompts this from Godbee but it could be that she's seeing Vince run off with his friends as soon as he arrives and realizes that the children won't always want to visit their grandmother. It could also be that she's sensing her own mortality and knows that she isn't guaranteed another summer. There's no indication that Godbee is ill but the result is that Martha's afraid for her grandmother.

This section contains 1,736 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
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