Klara and Rosa are new robots in a robot store. They get nourishment from the Sun. When Klara is far way from the Sun, she worries about getting weaker. Another robot, Boy AF Rex (“Rex”), shows up and tells her how to draw power from the floorboards, but when she does she draws a lot of power and the store’s lights weaken. Because Klara overdraws the power, Rex calls her “greedy”, weakens, and he is moved to the front of the store where he can regain power through natural sunlight.
Klara, as a robot, needs sunlight to function and power her up. Her natural desire (i.e. her programming) is to want power since that is key to her functioning and survival. (We’ll also later learn that “AF” means “artificial friend”.)
When a new robot arrives, he shows her how to draw from an alternate source of power (presumably from some type of grid that stores solar power). However, Klara is programmed to draw a lot of power, and she ends up drawing enough power to dim the light (which is why is described as being “greedy”). It sounds like her model of robots were designed as females (or the ones in this store just happen to all be females) and were all programmed similarly, which is why the Boy AF Rex robots says that “You girl AFs are always so greedy”. (Presumably, Rex is a robot with slightly different programming.) Rex sees its as “girl AF” issue as opposed to a model issue since he’s just drawing conclusions based on what he can see, even if those conclusions aren’t entirely accurate.
Ishiguro kicks off the book by jumping into one of the many things that this book will be about — here, we see the blurring of the line between what’s human and what’s artificial. There’s multiple examples of Anthropomorphism (giving human qualities to non-human objects) in just the opening stanzas, as seen in Klara’s desires and the description of her as “greedy” or gendering her as a girl. The desires and what appear to be her personality traits are just how she was programmed. It makes sense that the programmer set her up to automatically want and seek out power, since otherwise she would not function. And her gender is obviously a construct.
When a customer walks in, a woman and her daughter. The woman appears to be “high-ranking”. The daughter, Caroline, is interested in purchasing Rex. The store manager explains that Rex is a companion robot, more specifically the “B2, third series”. The woman notes that Rex’s model had “solar absorption problems” and comments that she’s heard that underpowered robots can have behavioral issues. She decides to pass on the robot. Afterwards, Klara realizes that Rex had been commenting on Klara’s power usage previously because he’s aware of his own power issues.
This part shifts to providing a little perspective on the robots from a human perspective. The woman is concerned about it’s programming issues. Whereas Rex sees Klara as being too “greedy” about power, it sounds like from a consumer perspective is actually a problem with Rex’s model not drawing enough power (and hence having “solar absorption problems”).
In her narration, Klara seems taken aback that the woman would criticize Rex (“She said it just like that, in front of Rex”) with him standing right there. It shows that she’s programmed to observe social niceties and to expect them, even towards other robots.
In addition to wanting to be near the Sun, Klara also shows a desire to want a “home”. She and Rosa both are programmed to want to find owners and to want to stay charged.
When Klara’s turn to stand in the front window arrives, she’s dazzled by the sights outside, and the shapes the Sun casts upon everything. However, Klara notes that Rosa seems to lack her curiosity about the world outside. Klara also has instructions not to try to make eye contact with people until people show interest in them first.
Klara also notes that some of the children seem angry or sad initially upon seeing them. The manager explains that these companion robots are a luxury item that some kids want, but their parents cannot afford which makes them sad.
One day, a 14-year-old girl named Josie comes up to the window and talks to Klara. Josie chats casually with Klara while her mother (who we’ll eventually learn is named “Chrissy Arthur“) is in a taxi nearby chatting with her friend, Mrs. Jeffries. Klara notes that both women appear to be high-ranking. When Josie’s mother comes up, Josie leaves, but promises Klara that she’ll come back.
By the window, Klara and Rosa comment how they the don’t see many AFs on the streets. The ones they do see are typically across the street (“on the RPO Building side”), and if an AF walks by, it seems to be afraid of the robots in the store for some reason. Klara realizes that she is a newer model and the robots were afraid of the possibility that their children would eventually want to upgrade. The robots must be purposefully trying to take a route that doesn’t go by their store.
Klara also comes to realize that some of the kids with AFs don’t want them. They seem angry with their AFs. On the street, Klara sees one girl who has clearly ordered her AF to walk a few paces behind her.
In addition to telling us more about the ecosystem of humans and robots in this world, this section indicates that Rosa is a slightly different than Klara. (We later learn that each AF ends up with unique qualities). Presumably, Klara is more perceptive, especially when it comes to interpreting and learning about human emotions.
As Klara makes her observations, she sometimes later corrects her initial assumptions. For example, at first she thinks the other robots are embarrassed by the store, but then she realizes that is is fear. This seems to indicate that in addition to being more perceptive, there’s likely a machine learning component to her that allows her to learn from what she sees and draw better conclusions in the future.
One day, Klara sees a vicious physical fight between two taxi-men. Rosa doesn’t even register that it’s a fight and thinks they were just playing. Klara wonders if she is capable of being as angry as those two men had been.
Then, Klara recalls a scene involving the Coffee Cup Lady and a Raincoat Man that she does not understand. It involves two people seeing each other from afar, seeing happy, coming towards each other and then seeming a bit sad as well. Klara asks her manager about it, who explains that they possibly are two people who have been separated for a long time and who have found each other again. The manager also says that “at special moments like that, people feel a pain alongside their happiness.”
At the beginning of Klara’s second week standing at the window, Josie shows up again along with her mother. Josie explains that she only wants Klara, but the mother is unsure and sizing up the situation. Josie reassures Klara that if she goes home with her, she’ll get stay in her room as opposed to some cupboard. Josie also admits that there’s something wrong with her and she has bad days. When Josie leaves, she promises to return soon, but she doesn’t come back the next few days.
Soon, Klara’s turn at the window is finished.
Josie is not sure what’s wrong with her, indicating that Josie has some type of undiagnosed illness. Josie tells Klara upfront since she thinks that’s how she’d want to be treated. Josie treats Klara like she would another human, showing that she has empathy and manners even when it comes to robots.
When Klara’s turn at the window ends, Klara senses her manager’s disappointment, likely because Klara had not been purchased.
Klara is now no longer at the window and is mid-store instead. Her manager also starts switching out what other robot she is paired with. One day, the Cootings Machine appears outside, and Rex explains that it’s going to generate more pollution.
The Cootings Machine is a construction vehicle, which is why it generates pollution. Rex seems to be a less advanced model of robot, but he’s likely also been around longer, so he knows more than Klara does about the world.
With construction going on outside, it’s loud and smoke fills the air. Their manager sees that the robots are upset by it all, and she reassures the robots that it will go away soon. After four days, Klara starts feeling weaker. When her posture sags, Rex touches her arm to give her some power.
When the construction finally stops, two days later a girl with spiky hair comes in with her father, who looks high-ranking manner. The girl becomes interested in Klara, but Klara remains expressionless and cold. The manager suggests buying a newer model, the B3s, which they just received. The girl’s father eventually buys the B3. Afterwards, the manager chides Klara being cold to the girl. The manager understands that Klara did so because Klara is waiting for another child (Josie) to return, but the manager also says that it’s not acceptable because it’s up to the child and not the AF to choose. She also says that children sometimes make promises they don’t keep.
Even though she has not been purchased, it’s clear that the AF’s natural instinct is to form bonds with people. Despite her desire for a home, Klara wants to wait for Josie to return instead of allowing herself to be purchased by someone else.
The new B3s are set up in the store window. Soon, Rosa is purchased by a boy and his mother. Quickly, Rosa is taken into the back room and disappears. Two of the B3s are purchased in the next few days, and Rex is also bought. Then, new B3s are brought in to take the place of the ones that were purchased.
The older AFs situated next to the new B3s give advice to the newer AFs about what to do. However, Klara notices that the newer AFs are very slowly moving themselves further away from the older models. She also sees the new AFs exchange looks when the old models try to give them advice.
The book tells us that the new B3s include advancements of some sort, but it’s clear that whatever improvements have been made also mean that they have a bit more attitude and perhaps some type of less desirable characteristics as well. (It’s soon explained that the B3s have better recall and cognition, but reportedly are less empathetic. )
Manager tells Klara that she’s going up to the window by herself, that she’ll get a “special price” (a discount) and manager reassures her that she’ll find her a home. Back in the window, Klara notices that the Beggar Man and his dog that she’s noticed before aren’t moving. By the end of the day, Klara thinks they are dead. But the next day, they are moving again, and Klara thinks that they must’ve been revived by the Sun.
After six days, Klara’s time by the window is up. She’s then moved to the back of the store in the rear alcove. But then, Klara soon hears that Josie has entered the store with her mother. Klara notices how tired her mother is. At first, Josie thinks that Klara is gone because she can’t see her. They consider purchasing a new B3, Sung Yi, but the Mother notes that despite their improved cognitive functions, they’ve been reported to have less empathy.
When Josie is reluctant, the Manager brings them back to where Klara is and Josie lights up. Josie explains she hasn’t been back because she’s been a little sick. The manager explains that Klara is a 4th Series B2. The Mother asks Klara a series of questions to test how observative she has been about Josie, including asking her to mimic Josie’s gait which indicates her left hip is weak. The Mother agrees to buy Klara, and Josie is delighted.
(Sidenote here, Klara refers repeatedly to an “oblong” which seems to be a laptop or computer-like device.)
In the house, Klara notices how stuff gets moved around, unlike in the store where things generally stayed put, so Klara had to figure out how to navigate accordingly. The family also employs a housekeeper, Melania, who seems to dislike Klara. Klara likes the kitchen, where the Sun shines brightly, but she comes to understand that the Sun can make Josie too warm and comes to appreciate the blind over the sunlight.
Klara also learns how important Mother’s morning coffee is. Josie likes to sit with her mother each morning, and it’s Klara’s job to make sure Josie is up and ready in time for her mother’s quick coffee break. When Josie’s health is still good, they watch the sunset from Josie’s window as they wait for Mother’s return so Josie can join her for dinner.
One day, Mother comes home early and as they are joking around, Josie asks to go back upstairs for a moment to watch the sunset because Klara likes it. As Klara and Josie watch the sunset, the sun sets behind a barn nearby as usual, and Klara wonders why the Sun goes to rest inside a barn.
Josie shows consideration for Klara when she interrupts time with her mother, which she clearly values, for the sake of Klara by asking to go watch the sunset.
Josie’s tutor is Professor Helm, and Josie best friend is Rick, her best friend who lives next door. Josie also explains that she and Rick have a plan to spend their lives together. Melania seems to be against Klara and Josie going over to Ricks’s house, but Josie insists. Josie lives in the country, and she and Rick’s houses are the only ones around for some distance. When they get there, Rick is playing with a circular device that controls machine bird-like creatures in the sky. This is also the first time that Klara has been outside.
Josie is hosting an event (an “interaction meeting”) on Tuesday, but Rick is reluctant to go, saying the other guests won’t be pleased. Upon meeting Klara, Rick points out that Josie had said when she was younger that she’d never get an AF. Klara notes to herself how Rick’s house is smaller and simpler compared to Rick’s place.
Later, Josie talks to her mother about not wanting to host the “interaction meeting”. Mother says that growing up, she interacted with her peers all the time, but for Josie’s generation that’s not the case. Instead, she needs to attend and host these meetings in order to learn how to get along with her peers.
We start seeing a few examples of how this the world of Klara and the Sun is a bit different from the one we live in. From Rick controlling mechanized birds to Josie having to attend “interaction meetings” in order to socialize with other kids, it’s clear that there are things in this reality in the future that are different apart from just the presence of AFs.
Rick also seems unhappy about Josie getting an AF, likely because (as will become clearer later) he’s not as well off and cannot afford one. Therefore, Josie getting one only strengthens the divide between the two of them.
The morning of the meeting, Josie is anxious. As the crowd gathers, the people talk about things like their professors and housekeepers. When Rick shows up, the volume of the party hushes, and Klara notices that people seem hesitant about Rick. As Rick chats and makes people laugh, Josie is pleased. When Rick and Josie leave the room, the other adults talk about Rick.
Elsewhere, the kids have a similar conversation about Rick, saying that they should try to make him feel welcome even though it must be awkward for him to be there. They also seem curious about Rick, asking him about what movies he watches and commenting on what he’s doing.
The conversation of the people implies that Rick is not really one of them, and it’s implied that his parents made some type of decision that diverged his path from theirs (“Did his folks just…decide not to go ahead? Lose their nerve?”). Also, despite pretending to be nice to Rick, they make him feel uncomfortable by peppering him with intrusive questions.
As we get further into this chapter of the book, we get to know more about the reality that Klara of the Sun exists in. Ishiguro seems to want to introduce this world in stages, with the first chapter limited to understanding Klara and the AFs.
As Klara describes what she sees at this party, her visions becomes a series of boxes. It shows how occasionally her programming deconstructs her view in various ways to analyze them and figure out how to piece it all together, often focusing on the movements and expressions of people. Described in this manner, it helps us to understand the world as Klara sees it.
Josie interrupts their conversation about Rick to introduce Klara. As the kids talk about their own AFs, and Josie orders Klara around in a tone that she typically only used with Melania. Then two of the boys, Scrubs and Danny, want to throw Klara across the room to test her coordination and ask her to do various things. As the kids try to give Klara commands, she ignores them, and Josie seems embarrassed. When one of the kids comments about B3s being better, Josie joking agrees that maybe she wishes she would’ve gotten one. One of the girls speaks up for Klara, saying that doing things like throwing AFs around like objects is “evil” and “nasty”.
As the kids continue hassling Klara, Rick interrupts to point out that Danny seems to have a “pet object” in his pocket (an object that Danny carries for comfort. Rick’s comments take the focus off of Klara, but it also makes Danny hostile toward Rick. Finally, Danny’s mother Sara interrupts, though the other parents remind her not to interfere since it’s part of them all learning how to interact.
These kids are upper class kids, as demonstrated by how they all have AFs (which are luxury items), and clearly some of them are acting like entitled brats, feeling at ease about handling Klara and likely other AFs any way they please. Klara thinks that these kids must be dealing with their own types of loneliness that makes them act the way they do.
Afterwards, Klara thanks Rick for intervening on her behalf. Klara comments on how it’s been a learning experience for her to see how Josie interacts with these kids, such Rick refers to as “lifted kids”. Rick comments that he’s disappointed to see how Josie changed around them. He’s worried she’ll become more like them the more time she spends with them. Klara sees that she and Rick have a similar goal of preventing Josie from becoming like those other kids.
After the meeting, Klara is worried about how her relationship with Josie will change after seeing her with those other kids. However, things seem normal. Klara comes to understand that people may “change” and act differently around others.
Instead, a trip to Morgan Falls does end up altering their friendship for a time. Three weeks after the interaction party, Josie is not feeling well. To motivate Josie to take care of herself, her mother tells her that if Josie is feeling better by Sunday, then they can go to Morgan Falls — a place Josie likes — that Sunday. Josie asks if Klara can come, and her mother agrees.
That night, Josie shows Klara photos of her and her mother at Morgan Falls, a waterfall. Melania is also there, and there’s also a third, younger, girl in the photos who Klara does not recognize. Josie explains that the girl is Sal, her sister, who is dead now. She had a sickness, too, but Josie says that it was much worse than the one she has.
When Sunday approaches, Mother warns Klara to look out for Josie since the terrain at Morgan Falls is “unpredictable”. On the day of the trip, Klara is worried, but tries not to say anything. Finally, when they are in the car, Mother points out to Josie that she’s only pretending to feel better. Josie insists she’s fine, and she says she wants to go to Morgan Falls for Klara’s sake. When Melania agrees that Josie is OK to go, Mother is sharp with her. Then, Mother says that if she only wants to go for Klara’s safe, then Mother and Klara will go together.
Caught in her own words, Josie agrees reluctantly to her mother’s suggestion. Josie and Melania head back into the house while Mother drives with Klara to Morgan Falls.
Mother is frustrated by Josie’s attempts to pretend not to be sick, most likely because it underscores her fear that Josie will get worse and do things that undermine her health. Out of frustration and to teach Josie a lesson, Mother purposefully suggests that only Klara goes on the trip with her.
On the way, Mother and Klara talk. Mother points out Kimball Refrigeration where Josie’s father once worked, which is why they originally moved out there. Mother and Josie’s father are no longer together, and he no longer works over there.
Mother says that Josie’s father no longer works at Kimball because he was “substituted” like everyone else, implying that he was replaced by AI or robotic labor.
When they arrive at Morgan Falls, Klara sees that the terrain really is difficult and understand why Mother did not want Josie to be there unless she was feeling completely well. Klara sees a bull and feels its destructive ability, but Mother reassures her that the bull is no threat to them.
When they get to the waterfall, Mother and Klara each express regret that Josie is not there. Then, Mother asks Klara to pretend to be Josie. Klara is hesitant, but then mimics Josie’s actions as requested. Mother then starts up a conversation and Klara responds as if she’s Josie. When Klara (as Josie) says that she knows she’ll get better, Mother says that Sal made the same promise, but left her. Then, Mother abruptly tells Klara to stop, and they head home.
On the way back, Mother suggests that perhaps they can have other outings together if Josie is too sick. She also asks Klara not to say anything to Josie about imitating her or about them potentially going on more outings. Back at home, Josie is upset with Klara.
Klara and Mother’s relationship takes a turn when we see that Mother wants Klara to pretend to be Josie. Presumably, she’s worried that Josie will die, and she’s wondering if Klara would be able pretend to be Josie in that case so that Mother could pretend that Josie is still around if that happens.
Josie is upset since she sees Klara and Mother going without her as a betrayal, and she’s likely also disappointed about not being able to go (both because she values time with her mother and because she loves Morgan Falls) and needs to take her frustration out on someone.
The episode at Morgan Falls is an important one because it shows Mother’s true reasons for sizing Klara up, and it reveals her ulterior motive. We also learn more about what Mother has been through with Josie’s father no longer in the picture, losing Sal and now the stress of possibly losing another daughter. It also represents the first real obstacle in Josie and Klara’s relationship, and it’s the first time where we see how Klara and Josie’s interests might not always be entirely aligned and how Klara might have to answer to others as well.
Following the Morgan Falls trip, Josie is cold to Klara for some time afterwards. Mother is also more distant towards Klara.
Mother is likely distant because she doesn’t want to accidentally reveal to Josie her ulterior motive with Klara, which would definitely be very hurtful to Josie.
Then, a few days after the trip, Josie’s health takes a turn for the worse, which leaves her bedridden. Melania watches over Josie while Mother is gone, and tells Klara to go outside since Klara creeps Melania out. Klara takes the opportunity to explore. She also wonders why the Sun hadn’t healed Josie yet, like the way Klara believes it had with the Beggar Man and the dog. She wonders if she needs to find a way to draw the Sun’s attention to Josie’s situation.
Klara still doesn’t understand how (from Part One) the Beggar Man and the dog weren’t dead, but merely sleeping. She still thinks the Sun healed them, the same way that the Sun makes Klara stronger. So, Klara doesn’t understand why the Sun isn’t healing Josie in the same way.
Josie’s doctor, Dr. Ryan, starts visiting frequently. Josie does start to become a little stronger. Since her lessons are on hold, Josie spends more time drawing. When Dr. Ryan’s visits subside, Rick comes over more, for thirty minutes at a time. Melania instruct Klara to stay and chaperone. Rick and Josie start playing something called the “bubble game” where Josie sketches scenes with people in it and empty bubbles over their heads. She’d hand the pages to Rick who would then fill in the bubbles with words. The faces often represent people she and Rick know.
Occasionally, Rick and Josie have disagreements. For example, one day Josie suggests that Rick is jealous or upset over the fact that there’s an artist that her mother has commissioned to do a portrait of her. He says it’s creepy how the artist shows up an photographs her. As Klara listens on to their conversations, they also frequently talk about their “plan” (to have a future together), and Klara understands that Josie needs the plan to prevent her from becoming lonely.
The “bubble game” is essentially a mechanism for Josie to see what Rick thinks about the people around them and to get his point of view on things, even if it sometimes leads to tension who Josie doesn’t like what he has to say about something.
When Rick gets upset about the artist, it’s likely some combination of him realizing that it’s for the purpose of preserving her memory and also because something like having commissioned artwork is another example of the income divide between them.
At one point, Klara and Josie discuss a picture that Rick labeled which suggests that Josie changes how she acts around other kids. When Josie asks Klara about it, she suggests that Rick was being kind by framing it as Josie hiding who she is on purpose because “Josie is being clever”. Still, Josie doesn’t like it and says that Rick needs to grow up. Josie thinks that by acting differently, she’s doing the grown up thing.
One day, as Josie and Rick are playing their “bubble game”, Josie asks Rick about his mother. She asks why his mother no longer drives their car and why she doesn’t really participate in “society”. Rick is reluctant to discuss it and is somewhat defensive of his mother. Soon, Josie starts criticizing Rick, saying that his lack of participation in society as well is a hindrance to their “plan”. Josie says that Rick’s mother chose for Rick to stay “unlifted” because she wanted to keep him for herself instead of letting him become a real adult.
Rick gets upset, fills in the bubbles on one of the sheets in a way that upsets Josie and leaves. Klara then sees that Rick has written something hurtful. Above an image of Josie, he’s written that Josie can’t do things because Josie’s mother has “Courage”, so instead Josie has to stay inside and be sick instead. Afterwards, Rick’s visits stop.
When Rick doesn’t return, Josie increasingly wants to be alone. Klara offers to play the bubble game, but Josie doesn’t want to play with her. Klara thinks that Josie seems weaker as well. Eventually, Klara sees Josie write and draw something intended for Rick the next time she sees him. Klara offers to take it to him, and Josie agrees. Before Klara heads out, Josie asks if Klara wishes she’d ended up with someone other than her, and Klara reassures Josie that she is happy.
Josie is torn in two directions — whether she should be the type of person Rick and Klara want her to be or whether she should be the person that society wants her to be. She doesn’t want to lose Rick, but she doesn’t want to be divorced from society either.
Josie initially is affronted by Klara’s suggestion that Rick is the one who needs to forgive Josie and not the other way around. But after some though she sees Klara has a point, and it makes her appreciate Klara even more. As a result, it prompts Josie to think about Klara’s happiness.
As Rick’s house, Klara gives Rick the picture, which says “Rick and Josie forever”. While appreciates it, he also says that Josie does this sometimes, where she says things that are over the line and then tries to patch things up with the nice picture. Klara reassures Rick that she’s spoken to Josie and that Josie is ready to apologize. Still, Rick is unsure.
Klara also asks Rick for advice on how to get to the barn some distance away, which belongs to Mr. McBain. (Klara still believes that the Sun rests there, and she believes the Sun can heal Josie.) Rick offers to go with her, but Klara declines.
Before Klara leaves, Rick’s mother Helen appears, looking disheveled. Rick’s mother is unwell, and he’s uncomfortable with her interacting with Klara. As Helen chats with Klara, she recalls a memory of Josie’s mother in the field holding on to the arm of someone who was trying to run away. Helen said the girl looked like Sal, but that was two years after Sal had died.
There’s definitely a lot of foreshadowing going on here. Clearly, this is a memory that is going to be revisited at some point.
Helen also tells Klara that the original plan was for Rick to be tutored and educated like the other “smart children”, but then she says that things became complicated. Now she says that Rick needs a tutor, but most are part of TWE and they don’t take on “unlifted” kids. She asks Klara if maybe she would help to tutor Rick. Klara agrees, assuming it doesn’t interfere with her duties with Josie.
Helen also says that Rick is purposefully not trying too study for his exams because he doesn’t want to get into college. Atlas Brookings is a college nearby that takes on a small number of unlifted kids (2%), but Rick won’t even try to get in. Helen thinks it’s because he thinks he needs to stay to take care of Helen. Rick won’t leave Helen on her own for even an hour. Helen asks Klara to make sure that Josie keeps insisting that Rick study for his exams, even if Rick causes a fuss with her over it. Helen also adds that she has a “secret weapon” to help Rick (which is later explained by Rick to be some “old flame” she knows who is affiliated with Atlas Brookings).
Klara finds it interesting that Helen would advocate for something that would leave her lonely (without Rick). Helen gently explains that she made a similar decision in the past, which is why she left Rick’s father (who is now deceased).
Klara seems to view a lot of human behavior through the lens of loneliness or preventing loneliness. This is understandable considering she was designed as a companion robot. She’s meant to understand that loneliness is a bad thing. However, humans are more complicated than this, and while loneliness is a complex emotion does drive plenty of human behavior, she is slowly learning that it’s still overly simplistic to see everyone in this fashion.
As Klara heads out, she heads toward the barn hoping to arrive before sunset. She gets caught in a ditch and Rick sees and rescues her, carrying her on his back to get her there in time. He offers to stay to take her back, but Klara insists she must do this on her own. At the barn, Klara comes to see that this might not be the Sun’s resting place after all, but she thinks that perhaps the Sun at least visits the barn each night before it goes to sleep.
When the Sun is shining brightly in the barn, Klara announces her request for the Sun to heal Josie, just as he had the Beggar Man. Then, she makes an offer. She says she knows the Sun dislikes Pollution, so she offers to destroy the machine that creates pollution if the Sun will heal Josie in exchange. As the sky darkens, Klara out. It turns out Rick has stayed and waited outside, so he accompanies her back.
Klara is operating based on a number of well-meaning, but misguided assumptions. She thinks the Sun has healing powers for humans, she thinks the Cootings Machine is the thing that creates pollution (which is does, but so do many other things), she thinks the Sun can hear her, and so on. She also thinks that letting Rick in on her plan or any part of her deal with the Sun will jeopardize things.
The next day, Rick goes to see Josie again, and Klara is happy to see them getting on well again. They ask for a little bit of privacy and Klara complies after reassurance that there will be no “hanky panky” going on. Later, Mother tells Klara that now that Josie is stronger, she’ll be going in for another sitting for her portrait with the artist, Mr. Henry Capaldi. Mother also adds that Mr. Capaldi is highly interested in robots and will likely have questions for Klara as well.
Rick and Helen will also be joining them to get a ride into the city because Helen doesn’t drive any more. And Rick will be meeting with the “secret weapon”/”old flame” that Helen knows that is connected to Atlas Brookings.
Given what we know about Mother’s interest in Klara, Mr. Capaldi needing information from Klara is certainly suggestive of something more going on that Klara is not being informed of. We’re also reminded again of how Helen no longer drives, though we haven’t been told the back story of why.
Soon before the trip, Melania pulls Klara aside to say that Mr. Capaldi is a creep and a “son bitch”. She warns Klara to keep an eye on Josie. When Klara confides that she has a plan to help Josie, Melania simply tells her that if her “plan” makes Josie worse then she will “dismantle” Klara.
While it’s been clear all along that Melania seems good at her joy and loyal to the household, in this part we can see how deeply Melania cares about Josie and wants what’s best for her. Though she’s been skeptical about Klara, she is willing to put is aside and see them as being “on the same side” if it’s in Josie’s best interests.
One night, Klara hears Josie crying after a nightmare. When Klara tries to comfort her, Josie rejects her, saying she wants her mother. Josie cries about not wanting to die. Mother rushes in to comfort Josie and hugs her until she calms down. Josie goes back to sleep, and Klara thinks about what she has learned.
Klara has to figure out what to make of this episode. She sees how Mother is able to comfort Josie, she sees Josie’s fear about dying, etc.
In the city, they drop Rick and Helen off and go to stay at a friend’s apartment. Meanwhile, Klara looks out for the Cootings Machine, and they are expecting Josie’s Father, Paul, to come see them as well. Paul arrives late, but Josie (who Paul refers to with the nickname “Animal“) hugs him warmly anyway. Paul gives Josie a mirror he invented that reverses the image so that things are no longer backwards in the mirror. Josie loves it. As the two chat, Mother interrupts abruptly, saying they need to go and that it’s Paul’s own fault for arriving late.
The four of them (Paul, Mother, Josie and Klara) head out. On the way there, Paul and Mother talk. Paul says that he thinks his life is better now than before he the “substitutions”. He wonders if Mother wouldn’t be happier as well if she gave it up as well instead of “hanging on” like she is. But Mother insists that her world would collapse if she gave it up.
Mother and Paul also argue about the Portrait, with Paul expressing some hesitation about it.
As they drive along, they pass by the spot where Klara’s store used to be. She sees that it has been replaced with something else and then more importantly she sees the Cootings Machine in that same area. Then, Josie suggests that they come back tomorrow to see what happened with the store, and Mother agrees.
They arrive at Mr. Capaldi’s. Mother asks to see the work-in-progress and Mr. Capaldi agrees. However, when Josie asks to do the same, Mr. Capaldi says no, claiming that it’s because he doesn’t want Josie to become self-conscious about it. Mr. Capaldi takes Mother behind a locked Purple Door where the portrait is located. Meanwhile, Klara is asked to answer a series of questions that are presented at an increasing speed that test her knowledge and understanding of Josie, her motivations, impulses and so on.
Klara executes her test effortlessly and as she does it, she overhears a conversation where Paul expresses discomfort over the ethics of the situation. Paul leaves angrily. Klara recalls the code that Mr. Capaldi used to go behind the Purple Door and take a look herself. Klara sees an AF that is clearly meant to be become a replica of Josie.
After Paul leaves, Mother starts to express her own worries. Mother worries that it won’t work, just as it didn’t work with Sal. Mr. Capaldi responds that what they are doing here is very different, since Sal was merely a bereavement doll. Their version of Josie will actually be Josie, so the outcome will be different.
Earlier in the book, we learned that Helen thought she had seen someone that looked like Sal trying to run away two years after Sal’s death. This section makes it clear that it was likely Sal’s bereavement doll that Helen had seen. (Helen says it seems like they forced it to stay in the house. It sounds like perhaps this was because the doll felt little connection to them and wanted to leave, so they had no choice but to make it stay inside.)
So basically, after Sal died from being lifted, Mother and Mr. Capaldi had tried to make a version of Sal but with different/less advanced technology, but it wasn’t a real duplicate of her, instead it was just a “doll”, and it didn’t want to be there. They seem to agree that experiment was a failure.
Klara interrupts their conversation to say that she understands what’s going on, and she reassures them that things will be different this time around. She says that she’ll be there to do everything in her power to train this new Josie. However, Mr. Capaldi then clarifies that Klara is not meant to train the new Josie, she’s meant to become the new Josie.
After they leave Mr. Capaldi’s, Mother and Klara sit in the car while Paul and Josie chat in a burger place. Mother explains to Klara that it was her decision for Josie to be lifted, so after she got sick as a result, Mother feels like Josie’s death would be her fault if it happened. Mother says that she got through it with Sal, but doesn’t think she could again without someone to replace Josie.
Mother then mentions Rick. She suggests that if Klara becomes Josie, then Mother, Klara, Rick and Helen could all go off somewhere away from other people and live their lives together.
This has been hinted at previously in the book, but here it’s made more explicit that Josie is sick because she was “lifted”. Basically being “lifted” affords kids certain abilities, but it also comes with the possibility of making them sick. They were unlucky with Sal, and then they were unlucky with Josie as well.
Finally, Mother goes inside to talk to Josie, and Paul comes out. Paul admits to Klara that he thinks Josie suspects what they intend to do in the event of her passing. With some time to kill as Mother and Josie talk, Paul offers to drive Klara to her old store. As they drive, Paul asks Klara if she thinks it’s possible for her to fully understand Josie’s heart, and Klara says yes.
When they arrive at the location of the old store, Klara tells Paul about her plan to destroy the Cootings Machine which causes Pollution. She is hoping Paul can use his engineering expertise to help her with this task. Klara admits that she can’t explain the specifics, but does say that she hopes it will help Josie. Though unsure, Paul helps her to locate it.
Before he helps her to destroy the machine, Paul explains to Klara why he dislikes Capaldi. He says that Capaldi believes that Josie can be reduced down to something that you can “excavate, copy, [or] transfer”, which implies that there’s nothing unique about Josie. Paul fears what it means if Capaldi is right. Paul also says that Chrissy to too “old-fashioned” to truly be able to accept Klara as Josie even if he is right.
Before Paul continues with breaking the machine, he first wants to share his thoughts about Capaldi and replacing Josie. It’s possible that his feelings about Josie (that she is unique and possibly incapable of being fully understood) is linked to the reasons why he is willing to help Klara with her strange plan which she claims will help Josie (which he also doesn’t fully understand). Paul says that he has a coldness to him, but there’s also a part of him that believes in things that cannot be fully understood.
Paul tells Klara that as a robot she should have a certain amount of liquid called P-E-G Nine, something that could damage the internal workings of machines such as the Cootings Machine. He says that Klara should be able to operate without some of it, though he admits that losing some of it may hinder her cognitive abilities a little. After some thought, Klara agree to extract some of it from herself to destroy the machine.
Afterwards, Klara and Paul rejoin Josie at a sushi café. Rick and Helen are there, too, to meet with Vance, Helen’s former flame who is connected to Atlas Brookings and who is now wealthy and influential. Helen is clearly anxious that the meeting go well. Paul talks about Rick’s abilities when it comes to drones, and he reassures Rick that “genuine ability” like his will be recognized even if Rick isn’t “lifted”.
They then talk about Paul’s life. He lives among other people who are all white and all “former professional elites”. Helen refers to it as being fascist, and Paul disagrees with the characterization. Josie asks why Paul lives where he does, a place for “post-employed” people that operates in the presence of “gangs and guns”. Paul simply says that he had to find a different way to live his life and that’s how things “naturally divided”.
Meanwhile, outside a crowd is gathering for a theater performance nearby. The group decides to go outside to look for Vance in the crowd. As Josie and Rick walk on ahead, Klara overhears Paul saying to Helen that her area might soon see some of violence similar to what’s been going on where he lives. Helen tells him she understands that, which is why she is working so hard to get Rick into Atlas Brookings where he’ll be safe. Paul then says that if it doesn’t work out, he encourages her to reach out so that he can find a place within his community where both she and Rick will be relatively safe.
In the commotion of the crowd, Rick gets Klara’s attention. Klara tells Rick that the task she’d set out to do involving the barn has been completed. Nearby, Mother asks Helen whether or not she regrets not having Rick “lifted”, and Helen says she does regret it. Then, Vance turns up and Helen rushes to greet him. Then, someone in the crowd approaches Mother to ask her to sign a petition to stop them from clearing out a building where hundreds of “post-employed” people are living. Paul interrupts to talk to Mother. Mother admits that she may have confirmed Josie’s suspicions that her portrait is more than just a portrait.
Meanwhile, Cindy, who had been their waitress earlier that day, sees Klara and recognizes her from having previously seen her in the window of the AF store. Cindy chats with Klara about her old store. Then, a woman from the crowd mistakes the group as theater-goers and points out that Klara shouldn’t be allowed in because a ticket would be wasted on an AF, saying that “First they take the jobs. Then they take the seats at the theater?” Even though Klara isn’t there for the theater anyway, Cindy is angry on Klara’s behalf regardless.
Finally, things calm down as Vance, Rick, Helen and Klara go into a diner nearby. At the same time, Josie and Mother head to the apartment to talk. Josie reassures Klara that she won’t let anything bad happen to her before she leaves, and Klara gets the feeling that her absence was necessary for Josie and Mother’s conversation. (Paul seems to have left at some point.)
At the diner, Rick tells Vance about his interest in drone technology and his hope to get into Atlas Brookings. Vance takes a look at Rick’s drone plans and comments on their surveillance capabilities. When Vance asks about Rick’s thoughts about the ethical implications of his drones given their abilities to intrude upon the privacy of other, Rick responds that “it’s for legislators” to figure out and he’s just interested in learning and honing his skills. Vance seems pleased with this response.
In this conversation, it’s clarified that having a child “lifted” means using genetic editing to give those children advantages.
Vance asks Rick about his feelings on the ethics of his drones (which can have privacy implications), but only as a test to see if he’s squeamish about ethically-questionable activities. Vance seems pleased when Rick responds that “it’s for legislators” to decide, essentially ridding himself of the responsibility of worrying about the ethics.
However, Vance then points out how he and Helen were together for five years, but then she ignored him and treated him poorly all these years. Suddenly, she wants his help. As he lists off his grievances towards her, Helen begs for his forgiveness. Rick finally says that he wants no part of this. Helen continues to beg as Vance leaves. Afterwards, Helen wonders if that will be sufficient for him to help Rick.
Soon, Mother arrives and takes Klara back to the friend’s apartment where Josie is already in bed. Mother then drives Rick and Helen back to their hotel. When Josie stirs, Klara asks Josie what she’d spoken to Mother about. Josie says that Mother suggested that she quit her job and take care of Josie full time. In that case, they wouldn’t need Klara anymore. However, Josie says that she turned down that proposal.
The next day, Klara is disappointed not to see any signs that the Sun was providing “special nourishment” to Josie. During the drive back, Klara is upset to see that the Cootings Machine has been replaced by a new one. As the new Cootings Machine pumps out Pollution, she considers that it is the reason her plan didn’t work.
Eleven days following their return, Josie starts to weaken again. Soon, Dr. Ryan’s visits become a daily occurrence. Klara initially helps tutor Rick as agreed upon, but with Josie worsening, Rick is too despondent to focus on his studies. With time seemingly running out, Klara asks Rick to take her to the barn once again. She also asks Rick if his love for Josie is genuine, saying that she’ll need it to bargain with.
At the barn with the sun setting, Klara acknowledges her failure to stop the Pollution, but she asks the Sun to help Josie anyway. Klara also recalls how brightly the Sun shined the day that the Coffee Cup Lady and the Raincoat Man were reunited. She cites it as an example of how the Sun clearly delights in people in love, and she asks the Sun to consider how Josie and Rick truly love each other.
As the Sun’s light in the barn starts to recede, Klara notices several sheets of glass — likely from Mr. McBain planning on fixing the missing walls or adding windows — located in the corner of the barn. She understands now that the Sun was never in the barn, but rather her eye had caught the reflection of the light which was particularly bright because of the mirrored effect. Still, Klara faces the glass and repeats her entreaty to the Sun.
Klara is essentially praying to the Sun, much the way one would to a deity. Considering that Klara gets her power and life force from the Sun, that’s an understandable thing to do.
In the following days, Dr. Ryan and Mother discuss whether it’s time for Josie to go to a hospital, but decide it would only make Josie unhappy. One day, when the sky is particularly dark, Mother asks Rick if he thinks he “won”. He took a gamble by not being “lifted” while Josie’s family decided otherwise, and now he will live while Josie dies. Mother says meanly that Rick must be feeling smug.
Rick responds by saying that Josie told him something a while ago and told him to pass along the message at “the correct time”. He thinks that time is now, so he tells Mother about Josie saying how much she loved her Mother, that she’d be lifted again if given the choice, and how she wouldn’t have wanted to do anything differently.
Mother says something intentionally inflammatory and hurtful to Rick, implying that he’d be happy about Josie dying or somehow feeling superior to her. Rick responds with kindness towards Mother, understanding her pain and choosing to be sensitive to that pain.
Suddenly, Klara calls out that the “Sun is coming out”! She rushes upstairs to see Josie still sleeping, but the room is full of light. Melania moves to shut to blinds, but Klara stops her, insisting that they open up all the blinds. With the Sun shining brightly, Josie wakes up and asks why it’s so bright in the room. Mother comments that Josie looks like she’s doing better.
Josie does get better and stronger and grows into an adult. Over the years, Rick stops wanting to attend Atlas Brookings while Josie consistently attends retreats and trips for college preparation. Rick also gets busy with his own projects and they eventually see less and less of him. Melania now lives in California.
In Klara’s last conversation with him, Rick brings up the day with dark skies that suddenly brightened. He says that seems like the day Josie suddenly started getting better. Rick asks if Klara’s visits to the barn had anything to do with it, but Klara says she still doesn’t dare to speak of it, even now. Klara worries about whether Rick and Josie still love each other now that it looks like their paths will soon diverge. Rick says that when he told her it was definitely true, and in “a funny way” it still is true even if they plan on going off to live different lives. Klara wonders if they will be reunited one day like the Coffee Cup Lady and Raincoat Man or if that’s what the Sun hopes for them.
As college nears, Josie gets frequent visits from people her age. Klara ends up hanging out in the utility room during those times, and Josie helps move some stuff to fashion a step so that Klara can reach the small window up high and look out of it.
One day, Mr. Capaldi comes to visit, wanting to talk to Klara. He says that there’s a growing backlash against AFs, with people worried about AFs are capable of and not fully understanding how they work. He wants to try opening “the black box” of their inner workings, but he needs volunteers. He asks if Klara is willing to help. However, Mother interrupts and says no. She says that Klara “deserves her slow fade”.
Josie starts making references to Klara leaving them when Josie goes off to college, and soon the day finally arrives. A New Housekeeper also joins the household. Eventually, Klara is moved to the Yard where machinery has been neatly organized and stored. Overhead, she can sometimes spot birds, and at one point she thinks maybe they are Rick’s drones, but they turn out to be normal birds.
For her “slow fade”, Klara is moved into an area where they store old machinery. Mother feels this is a better end for Klara that being taken apart for research. There, Klara sifts through her old memories and seems content doing so.
One day in the Yard, Manager is there and recognizes Klara. Manager says that she goes to the Yard because she likes to collect souvenirs, but she was hoping to find Klara there. Manager asks about Klara’s life, and she says that Klara was always one of the most remarkable AFs that she had looked after in her store. Klara asks about Rosa, and Manager says that she found Rosa in the Yard about two years ago, but things didn’t end as well for her.
As they talk, Klara says that she once thought that she could “continue Josie” (become Josie), but now she thinks she could have never done it completely, that there’d always be something missing. (Manager does not really understand what she means by this.) Klara also tells Manager that the Sun has always been kind to her but was once especially kind to her when she was with Josie.