Note that the entire book takes place over the course of 24 hours — from at 7:00 AM on Saturday, August 27, 1983 to 7:00 AM on Sunday August 28, 1983 — with flashbacks in between.
(I numbered the chapters to make it easier to reference, but the chapters are un-numbered in the book.)
The book opens by explaining that Malibu, CA has fires from time to time. It’s a city that stretches across 27 miles and is bisected by the Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH”).
The Malibu fire of 1983 begins at (a notoriously out-of-control) party at the home of Nina Riva, located along the coast at 28150 Cliffside Drive on Saturday, August 27. By 7:00 AM the next morning, the coastline of Malibu is engulfed in flames.
Chapter 1: 7:00 A.M.
Nina Riva, 25, wakes up at 7:00 AM, anticipating the party at her house, one she throws every year, beginning 12 hours from now. This year, however, she’s also very aware that all the guests will likely know that her tennis pro husband Brandon Randall recently left her for another woman (and fellow tennis player), Carrie Soto, since the story was splashed on the front page of a tabloid a few days ago. (Nina is known for her career as a swimsuit/surfing model.)
Nina’s younger brother Jay Riva, 23, and younger sister Katherine “Kit” Elizabeth Riva, 20, soon show up at her door, looking to get Nina to go surfing with them. She doesn’t answer, so they leave without her. Jay is a professional surfer, having placed 1st and 3rd in previous United States Surfing Championships. At the beach, they run into Jay’s friend Seth Whittles, who inquires about the upcoming party.
Elsewhere, Hudson “Hud” Riva, 23, is making love to his girlfriend, Ashley in his Airstream illegally parked on Zuma Beach. Hud is a photographer, responsible for shooting Jay’s magazine covers and most of Jay’s famous shots. Hud and Ashley have been dating in secret, because Ashley is Jay’s ex. They started sleeping together six months ago, but she only dumped Jay last month and broke his heart in doing so. Hud wants Ashley to come to the party tonight so they can finally reveal their relationship to everyone.
Chapter 2: 8:00 A.M.
By 8:00 AM, Nina is out surfing near a small, secluded cove. She thinks about how the Rivas’ annual party began years ago and slowly became the go-to event in town, attracting all sorts of big names and celebrities each year. (At the party in 1980, one guy claimed “he had proof Celia St. James was gay”.) As she thinks about it, Nina starts looking forward to the party that night. She hopes to see Vaughn Donovan, who she heard might make an appearance.
Chapter 3: 1956
The book now flashes back to tell the story of Michael “Mick” Dominic Riva and June Costas, the parents of the Riva siblings.
Mick, 23, met June, 17, in Malibu in 1956. At the time, Malibu was a rural fishing town. June’s parents owned a small restaurant called Pacific Fish just off the PCH. It was expected that June would take over cooking at the restaurant for her mother, but she dreamed of stardom instead.
Mick had been living in Los Angeles for the past two years, but was in Malibu surfing. He’d moved to L.A. in search of fame as a singer, albeit unsuccessfully so far. He asked June out after seeing her standing on the beach, and took her out to a fancy restaurant, the Sea Lion. Over dinner, they talk about their humble backgrounds and their shared dreams of fame and family as well. Afterwards, he sings to her and they kiss.
Chapter 4: 9:00 A.M.
At 9:00 A.M., Nina heads out of the water and goes home. On her answering machine, her agent Chris Travertine, has left a message about someone releasing photos of her dressed in a bikini from a calendar shoot she previously did. She gets dressed and heads out to meet her siblings at the family restaurant which they still run, partially out of a sense of familial obligation.
Chapter 5: 1956
After three months of dating, Mick tries to have sex with June, but she says he needs to propose first, which is what she’s been told to do. He says that he loves her, but she insists. She also asks him if she’s his first, and he lies and says yes, thinking that it’s just something she wants to hear.
Soon, as they’re walking down the Santa Monica Pier, Mick gets on one knee and proposes with a tiny ring, promising her a larger one someday in the future. June gleefully says yes. Afterwards, they have sex, and it’s clear to June that Mick lied about her being his first.
The next day, they go to June’s parents to tell them the news. Her mother, Christina, comments on how handsome Mick is, but warns June to be careful with guys like that. Her father, Theo, asks for a promise that if Mick doesn’t make it big in a few years that they’ll return to run the restaurant. Mick agrees, even though both he and June have no intention of running the restaurant, since he’s certain he’ll make it as a singer.
Eventually, Mick starts booking some small gigs at restaurants and clubs in Hollywood. A few months later, he finally gets a record deal with Runner Records and buys June a larger engagement ring to replace the tiny one.
Soon, June is pregnant. Christina tells June they need to move up the date of the wedding on account of the pregnancy. They have the wedding on the beach in Malibu under a tent. That night, Mick sings a song he wrote for June called Warm June.
Nina is born in July 1958, and they move into a three-bedroom house on Malibu Road with a double vanity and a new Cadillac in the driveway.
Chapter 6: 10:00 A.M.
By 10:00 AM, Nina arrives at Riva’s Seafood (formerly Pacific Fish). Ramon, who has been running the restaurant since 1979, is in the kitchen. As they go over some numbers, Nina thinks about how she had subsidizes the restaurant in the past to keep it afloat, but she’s determined to keep it running.
At the beach, Jay and Kit are done surfing, and they plan to head to their childhood home on Malibu Road where they both still live before going to meet their siblings at Riva’s Seafood. (Nina lives in her mansion and Hud lives in his Airstream.)
While Jay travels a lot for his surfing career, Kit is a junior at Santa Monica College, and she helps out at the restaurant on weekends. Kit thinks she’s just as good at surfing as her siblings, but she doesn’t have Nina’s gorgeous looks to get the same type of attention.
While Kit grabs a shower, Jay goes out to the Sandcastle Beach Cafe restaurant to seek out Lara Vorhees, someone he’d met three weeks ago. Jay had fallen hard for Lara quickly. They’d hooked up and he had confided in her that he’d recently been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart problem which spelled the end of his surfing career — something no one else knows about. Lara seemed unfazed by this, which made him fall in love with her.
In present day, Jay invites her to their party that night. She asks to bring her (platonic) co-worker, Chad, to cheer him up after recently being dumped. Jay agrees.
Chapter 7: 1959
Jay had been due to be born on August 17, 1959, which had coincided with Mick’s tour for his debut album, Mick Riva: Main Man. Mick had refused to reschedule the tour, but agreed to go home for the birth. However, when the call came saying June was in labor, Mick skipped it to do his show. He told himself he’d make up for it when he got home.
June is initially upset, but Mick apologizes profusely and she lets it go. Mick then tells her he’s going to release “Warm June” on his second album, which comforts her since she has been starting to suspect that he has been cheating on her on the road.
Chapter 8: 11:00 A.M.
Jay gets back later than promised, and he and Kit show up late to pick up Hud. The three of them head toward the restaurant.
Chapter 9: 1959
In December 1959, June answers to door to find a young starlet named Carol Hudson, carrying a one-month old boy. Carol tells June that Mick is the father and that she’s unable to take care of the boy. She hands June the birth certificate and says that they boy’s name is Hudson Riva. June initially feels angry at Carol, but almost immediately after comforting the baby, she decides that she’s willing and able to love him.
That night, she plans on changing the locks to keep Mick out of the house, but the locksmith refuses to help. Instead, she jams the door with a chair. When Mick finally gets home, he’s unable to open the door more than a crack and June confronts him with what she knows.
Mick thinks back to the many, many times he’d rejected women coming on to him, but he’d finally given in to a woman named Diana in a parking lot one day. From there, there was a string of other women though he told himself he was still a good husband to June. Eventually, he met Carol and really fell for her, but three months into it, she got pregnant. He sent her money, but stopped calling her after that and stopped seeing other women.
Stuck outside his house, Mick apologies to June and cries. When June tells him to leave and that she intends to raise the boys on her own, Mick reminds her that if she intends to keep Hudson then she’ll need to take him back because he’s the father (and she doesn’t have legal rights to him). June reluctantly lets him back in, and Mick promises to be a better husband. They agree to let people believe the boys are twins since they are only one month apart in age.
As time passes, Mick becomes more well-known and June is happy with the nice things and her children, even if Mick continues to cheat on her. Mick starts seeing a woman, Veronica Lowe, in public places. One day, he tells June that he’s taking Veronica to Paris and takes off despite June’s protests and cries. Mick tells himself that he just needs a good woman to save him. Before, he thought that was June, but now he thinks it’s Veronica.
Afterwards, June finally admits to her mother that Mick has left her, though she promises herself that she will be more than “just a woman he left”.
Chapter 10: Noon
At noon, Nina notes that her siblings are all late as she prepares seafood sandwiches for them. As she waits for them, she sees a magazine with photos of Brandon and Carrie together. It reminds her of seeing her mother looking at magazines of their father and his new wife when she was young.
Finally, the rest of the Riva siblings show up.
Chapter 11: 1961
In 1961, the day after Mick and June’s divorce is finalized, Mick and Veronica are married, and soon they’re living in a Manhattan penthouse. Four months later, he starts cheating on Veronica with a woman named Sandra. When Veronica finds out, he files for divorce yet again. Though Mick continues paying for his kids, they never hear from him. Mick tells himself that they at least have more than he ever did as a kid.
Mick’s own parents were Carlo and Anna Riva, and Mick was their only child. They were poor, loved each other, but hit each other. Carlo cheated, Anna was unkind, and they both neglected Mick. They would fight violently and cuddle afterwards while Mick would run and hide. Carlo would occasionally disappear with other women, one time for nine weeks, while Anna would cry at home. Young Mick learned to care for himself.
Mick remarries again after Veronica, but it’s annulled the next day. By then, June had removed any trace of Mick from their home.
By spring 1962, Mick is single and bored with the countless beautiful and famous women he’s slept with. He thinks of June and decides to pay her a visit. June wakes to find him proclaiming his lover for her, and he begs her for once more chance. He pleads with her to imagine their life as a family again. Finally, June relents, and when Nina wakes, he reintroduces himself as her father and reassures her that he’s back for good.
Chapter 12: 1:00 P.M.
At 1:00 PM, Jay suggests that they all go surfing together, and they agree to head over to Nina’s place together.
Chapter 13: 1962
On hiatus from touring and back with his family, Mick spends the summer of 1962 being the man he felt he should be, though Nina remained skeptical of him. One night, he proposes to June again, and says yes. In September, they are remarried. By the end of year, June is pregnant with Kit. Meanwhile, Nina’s skepticism had faded away, and she comes around to adoring her father.
A year later, Mick meets a backup singer in Atlantic City and decides not to go home.
Chapter 14: 2:00 P.M.
At they’re surfing, a perfect wave comes in and as Jay goes for it, Kit sees him and cuts him off, stealing the wave from him. Jay is irritated with her, warning her that it’s dangerous to do that, but Kit is confident in her ability to maneuver without getting hurt.
Meanwhile, Hud watches on as the two bicker and Nina heads over to her house to welcome in and make the cleaning staff comfortable. He thinks about how Nina puts everyone else before herself. He thinks it’s sad, and it’s something he doesn’t like about her.
Chapter 15: 1969
By 1969, Mick Riva’s career had really taken off with his music playing everywhere, so “to his children, he was both inescapable and never there.” Meanwhile, June’s father had been dead for two years. Nina was now 11. Jay and Hud, 9. Kit was 6.
Mick and June had divorced by then, and while June had gotten the house, Mick had stopped paying child support or alimony. June realized it was likely an oversight, easily fixed with a phone call, but she refused to ask him for anything.
Instead, she went to work at the restaurant, which she now ran with her mother and the kids went with her during the summer. One busy July morning, June asked Nina to help out, and she did, working fast and efficiently while the other kids played and whatnot.
Later, June tells Nina to take the other kids to the beach. Jay and Hud stick together like twins, though they both know they are not. Meanwhile, Nina orders Kit to stay next to her. Seeing an errant surfboard in the sand, Jay suggests that they try it out. Nina, Jay and Hud all end up attempting to surf, feeling exhilarated. Jay is triumphant when he manages to actually surf.
That night, all the kids fall asleep with thoughts of surfing in their heads, but Nina especially is consumed by the feeling of wanting to go back. She tells her mother she wants to work at the restaurant so she can buy surfboards for them, but June reassures her that she’ll buy them instead.
Months later, on Christmas morning, the kids awake to find surfboards for each one of them.
Chapter 16: 3:00 P.M.
At 3:00, Hud is at Pepperdine University at the art studio where the guy in charge of the darkroom, Ricky Esposito, lets him use it when it’s available. As Hud goes to work in the darkroom, Ricky asks about the party, and Hud extends and invite.
Meanwhile, Hud thinks about his birth mother, Carol, and what traits he got from her versus Mick.
Chapter 17: 1971
By 1971, Nina has started noticing how much alcohol her mother drank. Last year, the area had been evacuated due to a fire at one point. As everyone grabbed their essentials, Nina had seen her mother grab a bottle of vodka before they left.
In Fall 1971, Christina dies of a stroke. Afterwards, Nina offers to help her mother out at the restaurant instead of going to school, but her mother declines. At the restaurant, June thinks about how it’s all hers now, though this wasn’t the life she wants. She comforts herself, thinking of her kids.
Then, she gets the idea to rename the restaurant Riva’s Seafood. She thinks about how it will bring in more customers and that “when Mick finally came back” how he’d love it.
Eventually, Jay and Hud also realize that their mother is an alcoholic. At 14, Nina starts wanting to drive, even though it terrifies her, if only to prevent her mother from driving after lunch (when she starts getting drunk).
A year later, when Kit is 10, it also clicks for her that June is an alcoholic, and she feels anger towards June. A few weeks later, June burns dinner and serves it anyway. The other kids just pretend it’s fine, but Kit angrily points out that it’s burnt and that June’s an alcoholic.
The other kids diffuse the situation, but Jay and Hud finally talk about their mother’s situation and contemplate trying to contact Mick, though they know June specifically doesn’t want to do that. That night, Nina reassures the others that everything will be ok.
Chapter 18: 4:00 P.M.
By 4:00, Nina’s house is spotless. As she looks at the clothes Brandon left behind, a part of her is tempted to get herself a drink.
Chapter 19: 1975
One night in late 1975, all the kids happen to have sleepovers the same night. Nina is worried about leaving her mother alone, but June insists that Nina leave. That night, it’s reported that Mick has married for the 5th time, this time to a 24-year-old model named Margaux Caron.
June drinks and thinks about how he’s never coming back. She decides to draw herself a bath, but drunkenly falls asleep and drowns. The next morning, Nina comes home to find her mother dead. After her siblings come home, she tells them as well, and Nina realizes that she will have to be the one to raise them now.
Chapter 20: 5:00 P.M.
At the sun sets, Kit is getting dressed for the party. She wants to look good since Seth will be there, and goes looking for Nina to get fashion advice.
Chapter 21: 1975
By 197 at June’s funeral, Nina is now 17. Jay and Hud are 16, and Kit is 12. Afterwards, they talk about how Mick didn’t show up, even though Nina had tried to contact his manager and the courts had likely already reached out to him as the executor of June’s estate.
Nina is determined to keep her siblings out of foster care, and the school principal had explained to her that as long as it seemed like things were in order, he wouldn’t inform the state. A lawyer explained that when she’s 18, she can become their legal guardian.
Out of necessity, Nina takes on the responsibility of raising the family and household tasks, like paying property tax or calling a roofer when the roof leaked. The other kids are also given chores, like cleaning and laundry.
Meanwhile, they are financially living off of the restaurant’s profits, but it’s not enough to make ends meet. When the restaurant manager Patty quits, Nina has to take over. Since she’d been flunking out anyway by then, Nina decides to drop out of school to run Riva’s Seafood.
On the day Nina turns 18, Jay happens to have a small accident, crashing into the mailbox. Sill, they all pile into the dented car to go to the lawyer’s office to arrange for Nina’s legal guardianship. After a few weeks, it’s approved.
Chapter 22: 6:00 P.M.
By 6:00 PM, Kit arrives at Nina’s to see it beginning to fill with waiters and bartenders. Kit tells Nina her predicament, saying she wants to look sexy, but not wear a tight dress or heels. Nina thinks for a moment, and then she cuts Kit’s jeans into a pair of frayed shorts and alters her t-shirt as well. She then does Kit’s makeup and gives her a high ponytail. Looking at herself, Kit feels great.
Chapter 23: 1978
For three years, Nina keeps the family struggling along, barely getting by. When Hud or Jay offered to drop out of school as well to help out, Nina refused to let them. In spring 1978, the two boys graduated high school.
Hud headed off to Loyola Marymount with a financial aid package, and Jay helped out at the restaurant while working at a surf shop as well. On weekends, they surf together, with Hud using a used camera to take photos of Jay. Kit, meanwhile, is busy at parties, surfing and doing part-time work as a housepainter.
In April 1978, Nina is out surfing when she’s spotted by a editor for Vivant magazine. He introduces himself and hands her his business card, suggesting that she could make money from modeling. Thinking about the need to pay Hud’s college tuition, Nina soon is at a photo shoot with her in bikinis, which ends up in the Jun 1979 issues of Vivant.
Nina tells her agent she wants to enter surfing competitions, but it’s clear people care more about seeing photos of her in bikinis surfing than they do about her actual surfing. Meanwhile, as Nina takes her siblings with her to various surf breaks, Kit sees that there’s female surfers out there, and Jay realizes he wants to get serious about his surfing career as well.
Soon, there’s a calendar made of her. The July photo ends up being a particularly risqué shot that ends up making her famous, ending up as a popular pin-up photo. From there, the money starts rolling in. Not a lot, but enough. In August, with her spirits high, Nina suggests throwing a party.
*I’m not sure if this is a misprint or what, but pages 175-179 of the hardback first edition of the book (as well as the ebook version) jump forwards to 1983, but it falls within the 1978 section. Anyway, even if it’s not labelled as such, this part definitely takes place on the day of the party.
Soon, Jay and Hud have loaded up on liquor to be brought to the party. On their way to Nina’s, Hud decides to ask Jay what he would think of him asking Ashley out, but Jay immediately shuts it down — not because he particularly cared for Ashley or anything (since Lara was in the picture now), but just because he thought it’d be weird.
At 6:51, Jay, Hud and Kit arrive at Nina’s. Then, Brandon shows up. He tells Nina that he loves her and that he wants to come home.
Chapter 24: 1981
In February 1981, Brandon is doing a photo shoot for a sports magazine cover when Nina and Kit happen to be at a restaurant on the beach nearby. They notice the photo shoot, and Nina recognizes that he’s some type of tennis player. Meanwhile, Brandon spots Nina, and the photographer recognizes her as the girl from the posters. Brandon ends up going over to ask Nina out.
Brandon is someone who started playing tennis at a young age, encouraged by his father Dick who started training him with renowned tennis coach Thomas O’Connell by the age of 12. He was taught to act like a gentleman and to win. By 25, he had won a number of tennis titles, with the media coining the nickname of “BranRan“.
When Nina meets Brandon, he’s already famous and rich, but he woos her in a low-key way, which Nina likes. Soon, the two are spending a lot of time together, with the rest of the siblings often invited to join them for various outings. Brandon is accepting of Nina’s closeness to her siblings, which she appreciates.
In the fall, they are engaged, and by spring 1982, they are married. Soon, they move into 28150 Cliffside Drive. Brandon chose is based on its proximity to a great surf break, the house being good for parties and since there was enough rooms for Nina’s siblings to all have their own if they wanted to stay over.
A year later, however, Brandon comes back from winning Wimbledon to say he has met someone else and is leaving. Nina thinks about having watched her mother go through the same thing and about being abandoned, once again, by a man she trusted.
Part II: 7:00 P.M. TO 7:00 A.M.
Chapter 25: 7:00 P.M.
At 7:00 PM, Kit’s best friend Vanessa de la Cruz is the first to arrive. She goes to party hoping that Hud might finally start noticing her “in that way“.
As people continue to file in, Nina and Brandon are upstairs, with him begging for another chance and saying how much he missed her. He then leads her downstairs where he announces to the growing crowd that he loves her and that he made a mistake. As the crowd encourages her to take him back, Nina hesitantly says “OK”, not knowing what else to do.
Chapter 26: 8:00 P.M.
At 8:00 PM, Tuesday Hendricks, an Oscar-winning actress, runs into her most recent co-star Rafael Lopez at the party. Tuesday is at the party merely to make an appearance to show she’s not hiding away following her recent public scandal. Tuesday had met follow celebrity Bridger Miller at the Rivas’ party last year and they’d gotten engaged two weeks later, but she’d ditched Bridger at the altar back in May.
As Tuesday and Rafael chat, she hears Bridger’s voice at the party. She dreads the prospect of seeing him again. Instead, she and Rafael slip out of the party and into Brandon’s tennis court. Tuesday reveals she has weed on her, and Rafael has LSD and Quaaludes. They decide to get messed up.
Soon, there are people everywhere, and Jay is waiting impatiently for Lara to arrive. Meanwhile, Ashley comes in and finds Hud at the party.
Chapter 27: 9:00 P.M.
At 9:00 PM, Ricky Esposito (the Pepperdine photo studio guy) is hoping that to finally work up the courage to talk to Kit, since he has liked her for the last three years.
Meanwhile, Nina is surveying the party when Wendy Palmer, one of the staff from the restaurant, beckons her to dance. As Nina finally starts to enjoy herself, she sees Hud with Ashley in an unmistakably romantic way and she know this is not going to end well. At the same time, Jay heads down the stairs, spots Lara and kisses her.
Outside, Vanessa sees Hud with Ashley and her hopes for him are dashed. Kit notices Ricky checking her out, and she decides she’s interested in him.
Chapter 28: 10:00 P.M.
At 10:00 AM, Seth sees Hud with Ashley and is confused, knowing she and Jay have recently broken up. He looks around the party, wondering if his perfect match is out there. Little did he know that if he had stepped outside, he would have met her, a woman named Eliza Nakamura, who works as a development executive at Geffen Company. However, he stays in the backyard, still looking for love.
Elsewhere, Hub tells Ashley he’s going to try to talk to Jay again tonight. Ashley interrupts him to say that she’s pregnant.
Chapter 29: 11:00 P.M.
At 11:00 PM, Bobby Housman, the hottest screenwriter in town, shows up at the party. He gets a serving tray from one of the waitresses, Caroline, and pulls out a whole brick of cocaine and cuts it into lines. Then, he starts serving it around. (Later, Bobby and Caroline will have sex in the coat closet.)
Soon, six different trays of coke are being passed around the party. After refusing yet another offer of coke, Kit finds Ricky, who tells her that she’s his dream girl.
Meanwhile, Nina’s closest friend (and gorgeous fashion model), Tarine Montefiore, 27, walks in with Greg Robinson, 50, who is a big time music producer. Nina is surprised that Tarine would date someone that much older than her, but Brandon seems more surprised that she would date a black man.
Tarine is unpleasantly surprised to see Nina back with Brandon and questions Nina about it. Nina defends her decision, saying it’s just “easier” this way. Tarine also tells Nina her biggest flaw is that she’s too selfless.
Out on the patio, Kit waits while Ricky looks for a deck of cards to show her a magic trick. As she waits, she sees Seth kiss Vanessa. When Ricky gets back, he does her trick for him, and Kit humors him, mostly enjoying his attention. However, when he kisses her, Kit knows something feels off. Moreover, she realizes she’s not into guys at all. Kit tries to kiss Ricky even harder to force away the thought.
Soon, Nina is approached by a 17 or 18-year-old girl in a purple jersey dress, asking to talk. She introduces herself as Casey Greens . Casey tells Nina that she thinks Mick Riva is her father.
Casey’s adoptive parents died recently in a car accident, and she’d always known that her biological mother, Miranda Ridgemore, died in childbirth. Casey’s given name was originally Casey Miranda Ridgemore. According to a note on a photo she found, Mick Riva was her father according to Miranda.
Casey is supposed to start her freshman year at U.C. Irvine soon, but ended up driving out to Malibu to inquire about the Rivas, eventually being directed to Riva’s Seafood and finally hearing about the Riva party.
Chapter 30: Midnight
At midnight, Mick Riva, 50, is in his bedroom wearing a suit and tie. He thinks about his ex-wife, Angie (who was wife #6), who had also been his manager. He regrets cheating on her or perhaps regrets getting together with her in the first place, since she had been a good manager. Now he lives alone with Sullivan (“Sully”), his butler.
While there were no formal invitations to the Riva party, Kit had always sent a handwritten one to Mick each year, since she had tracked down his address five years ago. This year, Mick finally noticed the invitation and decides to go.
Back at Nina’s house, Wendy Palmer has decided to quit her job at Riva’s, give up her dreams of stardom and go home to Oregon to marry Charles, the son of her father’s best friend. The party tonight is her last hurrah, so she strips naked and starts making out with two attractive members of a popular band, with a plan to have sex with them both in the jacuzzi.
Looking for some place more quiet, Jay and Lara get into Hud’s truck to talk. He admits that he hasn’t stopped thinking about her since they met. As things start getting physical, Jay looks around the truck for a condom. Then, he opens the glove box to find raunchy photos of Ashley giving a blow job to Hub, and Jay’s heart breaks.
Meanwhile, Hud and Ashley have been walking around the beach talking about the pregnancy. They are both excited at the prospect, but they know they need to find Jay and tell him what’s going on. They start to head back to the party.
Chapter 31: 1:00 A.M.
At 1:00 AM, Brandon is in the bathroom, buzzed and thinking about what an idiot he was for how he treated Nina.
It had all started nine months ago, at the Australian Open. His shoulder had started bothering him, and he’d unexpectedly lost to a 17-year-old kid named Anders Larsen. In the following months, as his losses piled up, he hadn’t wanted to confide in Nina and be pitied by her. He secretly took cortisone shots for his arms.
Then one day in May, he’d met Carrie Soto, considered the best female tennis player of all time, and she’d given him some encouragement. He ended up winning that tournament, and afterwards he and Carrie hooked up. As his winning streak continued, Brandon convinced himself she was good luck for him, and he decided to leave Nina.
However, very quickly, he’d realized that Carrie was too severe and her life was too structured for his liking. Plus, his arm was killing him, and she was unsympathetic. Finally, after a few weeks and some harsh words with Carrie, he realized what a mistake he’d made and went home to get Nina back.
In present day at the party, Carrie shows up at the party with a bunch of Brandon’s clothes that she is threatening to light on fire on the front lawn. Nina makes her way there to see Carrie angrily yelling at Brandon for the things he said to her before he left.
Nina thinks about her own life and how she’d accepted all the bad things that had happened in her life, and she wishes she could be more like Carrie, yelling and screaming and demanding more from people. Finally, Nina tells both Brandon and Carrie to leave, and Carrie apologies for interrupting the party.
When Brandon refuses to leave, insisting that the house is his, Nina tell him he can have the house. Afterwards, Nine thinks about how relieved she is to be done with him. Back in the bedroom, Brandon drinks away his sorrows, telling himself he’ll find a way to win one of the women back.
Standing in Nina’s luxurious bathroom, Casey thinks about how she misses her old life and doesn’t belong here.
Kit and Ricky continue making out, and Ricky is unbelievably happy about it until he realizes she doesn’t seem as enthused as he is. He asks if she wants to stop. At first Kit insists that she’s into it, but finally she admits she wants to stop. She tells him she thinks she prefers women and wants to be friends with him instead. Ricky is a good sport about it. He asks Kit to teach him to surf, and she says yes.
Back in Hud’s car, Jay is still reeling from his discovery. After he has sex with Lara, she asks him what’s wrong, and he tells her about the photos he found. Then, he tells Lara that he loves her. However, Lara responds by saying that she doesn’t feel the same way and wasn’t on the same page as him. Hurt and upset, Jay tells her to get out of the car and walks back to the house. He goes looking for Hud instead. When he finally spots him, he’s filled with rage when he sees that Hud is at the party with Ashley.
Meanwhile, Mick is continuing to drive towards the party. When he finally arrives, everyone stops what they’re doing when they see him. Despite all the well-known names in the house, Mick is is a legend and the biggest star in the room.
Out on the beach, Jay yells at Hud when he gets to him. Hud readily admits that he and Ashley are together, and he apologizes profusely. Jay lunges at him anyway. Soon, the two are bloody and bruised as the fight continues.
When Nina finally emerges from hiding in her pantry, she stopped when he spots Mick. However, instead of going to talk to him, Nina goes to warn her siblings and her maybe sibling (Casey) that Mick is at the party.
Chapter 32: 2:00 A.M.
At 2:00 A.M., Vaughn Donovan (who Nina had been hoping to meet) shows up and tries to talk to Nina. However, Nina is busy so she suggests that talk a little later. Instead, Vaughn pals around with some friends, one of who starts throwing around and breaking dishes from the china cabinet. Vaughn joins in eagerly.
Mick goes looking for his kids only to see Jay and Hud fighting. As he separates them, they are both shocked to see him there. When Kit shows up, Mick doesn’t even recognize her, having only known her as a baby. Mick tells them that he wants to be a part of their lives, and he asks to sit down with them and talk. The four of them head for the beach.
Nina finds Casey and tells her that Mick is downstairs if she wants to talk to him. However, they end up just chatting in the bedroom instead. When she finally sees Mick and her siblings walking towards the beach, Nina decides to go talk to him.
Chapter 33: 3:00 A.M.
AT 3:00 AM, Ted Travis, a network TV star whose wife recently passed away, meets Victoria Brooks, a 43-year-old script supervisor, at the party. Ted has been on a self-destructive path of drugs, hookers and shoplifting since his wife’s death. It turns out that Victoria is a widow as well, and he asks her out. Then, he kisses her and asks if she has ever stolen anything.
Upset over the events of the night, Ashley decides to head home, worried about how things will work out between her, Hud and Jay. As she drives, she thinks about baby names.
In the kitchen, Vanessa runs into Ricky. Vanessa laments how she’d been in love with some guy, but decided to make out with a bunch of dudes tonight to get over it.
When Brandon awakes after having drunkenly passed out for a bit. He remembers what he’d meant to do, and he drives off to profess his love for Carrie Soto.
Elsewhere, Casey is heading down the stairs to find what may be her family, and Tarine watches at Vaughn Donovan pees on Lichtenstein painting.
Along the shoreline, Kit asks Mick what he came here to say to them. Micks says he wants to get to know them and to be a proper family. As the other kids ask him “what’s changed” to suddenly prompt this, Nina shows up. She still remembers him making and breaking promises as a kid, and she tells him off, saying that he’s not their father.
Mick asks just to get to know them a little, and they all sit down to talk. Mick asks about the fight, and Jay tells them about Hud sleeping with Ashley. Hud says he loves her and wants to marry her. Mick tells the kids that he knows he was “a shit”. Then, they see Casey coming towards them.
Chapter 34: 4:00 A.M.
At 4:00 AM, Tarine is thinking about how Greg had proposed a few days prior. Tarine knows that she’ll age out of her modeling career soon, but she thinks he could be a good partner for the next part of her life. She warns Greg that she’s unlikely to be faithful to him, but it’s okay if he’s not either. He agrees, and Tarine agrees to marry him.
Finally, as yet another expensive item gets broken in the house, Tarine decides to put a stop to the party, telling Greg to shut off the music. All around, people are doing drugs, having sex and breaking things. Vanessa agrees to help shut down the party, suggesting that they stop the food and booze by sending home the wait staff.
When Bridger Miller fires off a gunshot for fun, Tarine and Vanessa finally call the police, asking them to help get the situation under control.
Soon, six police officers arrive. Tarine tells them what’s going on and asks them to stop it, but the police officer wants to talk to the owner of the house, and Tarine doesn’t know where Nina is. When tone officer, Sergeant Eddie Purdy, seems more interested in meeting Mick Riva than dealing with the party, Tarine gets irritated, and the officer starts to become hostile. It escalates to him patronizingly touching her hair inappropriately and her slapping the officer.
Back on the beach, as Casey approaches, Nina introduces her to the other Rivas, telling them her story. Casey hands Mick the photo of her mother, but Mick looks at it and tells her honestly that he doesn’t know if he could be her father or not. Mick then says that he’s had three paternity suits brought against him, but none of them ended up being his. Mick says that he’s typically quite careful about these things since he knew he didn’t want children.
When Nina gets angry with him for his attitude, Mick defends himself, saying that he truly wasn’t capable of being a good father until now. However, Nina laughs in his face, saying that “capable has nothing to do with” it, instead she and June did it because it was necessary. She says that she’d rather be in Portugal living a simple life (“living in a shack on the beach, riding waves and eating the catch of the day”) instead of getting famous off photos of her half naked, but it was necessary. Finally, she says that she doesn’t have room for him in her life and doesn’t want to make space for him. The other siblings agree that it’s too late.
Mick says okay, but he also explains that his childhood was difficult as well. He talks about how his mother was neglectful and his father would leave randomly. He also talks about how his mother would get mad and set things on fire, probably to upset his father. Then, when he was 18, he came home to find the house burned down and both his parents dead.
He explains that he didn’t go to the funeral when their mother died because he didn’t want to face it and was ashamed of his own behavior. He tells the kids that he knows they deserved better from him and that he loves him despite how he treated them. Still, Nina tells him that his “love doesn’t mean very much”.
At the house, Sergeant Purdy cuffs Tarine for hitting him. Then, he finds an excuse to push her body against his. Vanessa gets angry and pushes Purdy, so he cuffs her too. Soon, Greg and Ricky come out to see, and Ricky tries to get the officer away from the women, lunging at him. Eventually, Tarine, Vanessa and Ricky have all been arrested.
Afterwards, the police raid the house, arresting 13 people total and loading them all up in a police van. As they’re sat in the cop car, Ricky and Vanessa agree to go out the next day, assuming they’re no longer in jail.
On the way to the precinct, the cops also find Brandon’s car wrapped around a tree. Brandon is very drunk, but uninjured.
Chapter 35: 5:00 A.M.
By 5:00 AM, the party is finally over. Eventually, the Rivas head back to the house. Jay and Hud make peace with each other. Hud thinks about the type of father he wants to be and is determined to love his child properly. Meanwhile, Kit asks Nina where she’d want to be if she could be anywhere, and Nina says Madeira, Portugal. And before they part, Mick offers to take a paternity test if Casey wants to find out.
Afterwards, as Nina wraps things up with the officers, Mick says his goodbyes to the siblings. After he leaves, Nina cries and her siblings sit with her.
Chapter 36: 6:00 A.M.
At 6:00 AM, Kit suggests that Nina move to Portugal if that’s her dream. To really get away, she says that Nina could make things really ambiguous, like the just disappeared in the commotion of the out-of-control party. Then, Nina can just get a small house and do whatever she wants, and the rest of them could visit her occasionally.
When Nina suggests that they need her there, the rest of them brush it off, saying they’ll be fine and that it’s time for her to do something for herself.
Chapter 37: 7:00 A.M.
At 7:00 AM, Mick realizes his car is missing, so he decides to just hitch a ride home. As he heads out, Mick is smoking a cigarette and flicks it onto the ground. It lands in the bushes and starts a fire without him realizing it.
Back at the house, the smoke from the fire is not visible yet. Jay and Hud drive to the hospital since Hud’s nose is still broken from their fight. Jay finally tells Hud about his medical condition. Then, Hud tells Jay at Ashley is pregnant. Hud also mentions that he thinks he might photograph Kit to help with her surfing career. A few hours later, Hud proposes to Ashley and she says yes.
Meanwhile, Casey says goodbye to Nina, who is about to leave for Portugal. Then, Kit and Casey leave to go get breakfast together. Before Nina leaves, she takes on last look at the house in shambles before taking off.
Soon, the flames from the fire are growling larger and encroach upon the house itself. It burns up the furniture and walls and climbs through the roof. Soon, it is “rolling down the coastline” and eventually when the firefighters arrive, Brandon is with Carrie when he sees that his house is on fire.
When the fire is finally under control, Nina Riva is already on her flight. The book ends by saying that the fire “had brought destruction. It would also bring renewal, rising from the ashes. The story of fire.”