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The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

Quick Recap & Summary By Chapter



The Quick Recap and Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride are below.

Quick(-ish) Recap

The two-paragraph version of this is: In Parts I and II, a skeleton is discovered in a well on Chicken Hill, and a old Jewish man, Malachi, is questioned. The narrative jumps back 47 years to explain how Malachi came to know Moshe, a Jewish theater owner. Moshe and his wife Chona (who runs the unprofitable but community staple Heaven & Earth Grocery) help their friend Nate, a black man, to hide his nephew, Dodo. Dodo is a deaf boy whose mother has died, and the state wants to admit him to Pennhurst, a mental asylum, because of his disability. Things go as planned until the town's white physician (a KKK member) attempts to rape Chona, and Dodo intervenes. Dodo is injured and taken into custody. Chona suffers a seizure during the attack and passes away.

In Part III, the various people of Chicken Hill band together to form a plan to bust Dodo out of the asylum. The plan involves recruiting a man who delivers eggs to Pennhurst to help Nate bring Dodo out and for them to traverse the tunnels around Pennhurst to reach the railroad. However, one of the attendants in Dodo's ward is twisted, evil man who calls himself Son of God and who abuses boys. When the plan goes awry, Nate ends up killing Son of God. Meanwhile, Doc falls into an uncovered manhole (the skeleton at the beginning of the story who was found with a necklace that was once a gift for Malachi, but given to Chona and stolen by Doc when he assaulted her). Nate and Dodo escape to a farm in South Carolina and his wife Addie later joins them. Moshe starts a camp for disabled children, in remembrance of his wife who was disabled. The book closes by explaining how Dodo grows up (as Nate Love II) and eventually passes away surrounded by his loving children and grandchildren.

Part I opens in 1972 with a old Jewish man, Malachi, being questioned about a skeleton that was found in a well in the Chicken Hill area of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, along with items linking it to him. The next day, a storm blows through the area destroying everything around including the well, the skeleton and any possible evidence, and Malachi leaves town.

The narrative then jumps back to 47 years ago and introduces Moshe Ludlow, a young, poor Jewish man who owns a small dance hall and theater in the area. Moshe is on the verge of losing everything when he meets Chona, the daughter of a rabbi who owns the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, the only Jewish grocery in the area. She is intelligent and lovely, but has a lame leg due to polio. Chona continues to have occasional tremors and seizures because of it. They marry, and in the years after, Moshe grows prosperous. Despite not needing to work, Chona chooses to keep running the store. When the other Jewish families leave Chicken Hill which is a poor, largely black area, Moshe wants to leave and move to a nicer place, but Chona insists on staying here with her community.

12 years into their marriage, Chona falls ill and continues to worsen. One day, Malachi appears, having recently purchased a bakery in town. He needs flour and offers Moshe a loaf of Challah. Malachi remembers Moshe from a great musical event at the theater twelve years ago, the one where Moshe's fortunes started turning around. Moshe remembers Malachi as a fantastic dancer, and Malachi continues bringing by Challah. Suddenly, Chona's health begins to improve, and Moshe attributes it to some type of magic Malachi seems to bring wherever he goes. Malachi is unskilled as a baker though and business suffers. He asks Moshe to assist him in selling the business and leaves town.

Meanwhile, Nate and Addie Timlin are close friends and employees of Moshe and Chona, as well as highly respected members of the black community in Pottstown. When Addie's sister suddenly passes away, the government takes an interest in taking her deaf 12-year-old boy Dodo into custody to send him to a "special school", the Pennhurst School. Pennhurst is meant for the mentally unwell and is no place for the boy. Nate asks Moshe for help in hiding Dodo, and Moshe and Chona take him in. They lie to the government officials saying that Dodo has left the state.

Bernice Davis is Chona's neighbor who she was once close friends with, but they have not spoken in many years. Chona's father founded the Ahavat Achim synagogue on Chicken Hill, and Bernice's father was the one who built it. The two men were close friends. Bernice is a black woman with many children. Chona asks her for help with Dodo, and Bernice quickly offers to let Chona cut a hole in her fence so Dodo can come hide among her kids in case anyone comes snooping around.

The state continues to look for the boy, and people suspect that someone must've told them that Dodo is still here. Doc Roberts is the town's physician and is a member of the KKK. He's asked to help locate the boy and check him out. Like Chona, Doc also had polio as a child, resulting in an unsteady gait, and he once had an interest in Chona when they were in high school. He was indignant at being rejected by a "Jewess" at the time, and he is curious how Chona is doing. He shows up at the grocery to talk to Chona based on rumors that she's harboring the boy.

As they talk, Chona argues with him about his KKK activities and suddenly she has a seizure. Instead of helping her, Doc takes advantage of her vulnerable state to sexually assault her, and Dodo tries to stop him. Chona has an even more serious seizure. When the situation is under control, Doc brings by two policemen to detain Dodo. Dodo flees, but is injured and caught.

In Part II, Dodo awakes at the Pennhurst hospital ward, and Chona is in the Reading hospital in a coma. Meanwhile, rumors fly around town about what happened. Nate is furious about what has happened to his nephew, and he pieces together that Revered Ed Spriggs must've been the one to leak to the men from the state that they were hiding Dodo. (Bernice would not have talked about hiding Dodo, but she would've told the Reverend, and Nate saw them arguing.) His wife Addie fears what he will do. Meanwhile, people are also hearing about Doc Roberts sexually assaulting Chona instead of helping her. A week after the assault, Chona passes away.

In Part III, plans begin to form around getting Dodo out of Pennhurst. Moshe's successful cousin Isaac offers to hire a lawyer to help, but Nate feels strongly that the law is whatever the "white man" says it is and that they need to take matters into their own hands.

In Pennhurst, Dodo befriends a boy with cerebral palsy that he nicknames Monkey Pants. There is an evil and twisted attendant there named Son of Man who abuses young boys. Monkey Pants manages to prevent Dodo from being raped by Son of Man, though the episode causes Monkey Pants to have a seizure and he dies.

Meanwhile, there has been an ongoing issue at the synagogue regarding their water supply. The water supply in town is controlled by the Plitzka family, and Gus Plitzka is the head councilman. Chona previously had run-ins with him. Despite the Plitzka's contract to supply the town with water, they refuse to run pipes to the synagogue.

Paper, a beautiful woman who supplies everyone with gossip, enlists her old coworker Miggy to help bust Dodo out. Miggy agrees to put Nate in touch with Bullis who has a job delivering eggs from the nearby farm to the various buildings around Pennhurst. The plan is to have Bullis help get Dodo out of the ward in his cart and then use the tunnels around Pennhurst to get them to the railroad.

Memorial Day weekend in 1936, the water issue is fixed by going in the night to illegally place pipes to connect the synagogue to the city water supply. A manhole is temporarily left uncovered and Doc falls in (he has on him a necklace Moshe once made for Malachi, but was given to Chona instead and stolen by Doc when he assaulted her). Meanwhile, Nate breaks Dodo out and kills Son of Man in the process.

The book end by explaining that Nate and Dodo end up settling down at a farm in South Carolina, and Addie eventually joins them. Dodo takes the name Nate Love II and has kids and grandkids of his own. When he dies, he is surrounded by his family and remembers Chona and thanks Monkey Pants.

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Chapter-by-Chapter Summary & Analysis


Part I – Gone
Part II – Gotten
Part III – The Last Love
Epilogue

Part I – Gone

Chapter 1: The Hurricane

In June 1972 in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, the day after Hayes Street on Chicken Hill is torn up to make room for a new townhouse development, a skeleton is found at the bottom of an old well on the street. The state troopers go to question Malachi the Dancer, an old Jewish man who lives at the site of the old synagogue.

They tell him that they also found a belt buckle, a pendant and some threads that seem to have come from a red costume or jacket. There’s also a piece of jewelry, which Malachi identifies as a mezuzah, which matches the one on his door, and it has the inscription “Home of the Greatest Dancer in the World” in Hebrew.

The gleaming and elegant Tucker School is situated nearby, and Malachi comments that they’ve been trying to buy him out for years. The troopers tell him that he’s a suspect and that they’ll be back after they collect more evidence.

But they never return because a storm blows through Chicken Hill and destroys everything around, including houses, bridges, farms, factories — as well as the well and the skeleton and any other evidence. Malachi (a man who was a “wizard” who could really dance) leaves and doesn’t come back.

This section is recounted conversationally, evoking the idea of someone recounting a story that’s often told. It also serves as both the introduction and ending to the story that this book is about.

Presumably, we are about to find out more about Malachi and how or why a skeleton ended up at the bottom of a well with evidence pointing to him.

Chapter 2: A Bad Sign

In February 1925 in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Moshe Ludlow is a Jewish theater manager who owns the All-American Dance Hall and Theater on Main Street. He lives in a “ramshackle” boardinghouse on Chicken Hill, where the minorities and immigrants (“blacks, Jews, and immigrant whites”) live. Moshe is cleaning up the theater after a great show with Chick Webb when he has a vision of Moses.


The narrative then jumps back a few months as Moshe recalls the greatest musical event he ever witnessed, which was when he booked Micky Katz, a brilliant and well-known Jewish clarinetist, to play a full weekend at the theater in mid-December along with his 7-piece ensemble. It had been during a snowstorm, and many traveled a long way for the weekend. People had been threatening to leave because of the snow, but Moshe coaxed the crowd into staying by inviting them to his place and telling them entertaining stories.

But as the crowd was growing, Katz was threatening to leave as well on account of the storm. Instead, Moshe had a on of his staff, a black man named Nate Timblin, serve Katz and his band a warm buffet-style meal to improve their mood. The next four nights were “most extraordinary gathering of joyful Jewish celebration” he’d ever seen. Among the crowd was a “young Hasid” (someone who is a member of the strictly orthodox Jewish Hasidic sect) who “danced like a demon” all night with great grace and dexterity. Moshe thinks that “the guy must be some kind of wizard”. The Hasidic dancer refuses to dance with any women though, and when asked he says he’s not looking for a dancer, he’s looking for a wife.

In this anecdote, Moshe is shown to be a personable and resourceful man, managing to salvage a difficult situation and turn things around. He’s described as having the “gift” of being able to “talk the horns off the devil’s head”.

Meanwhile, the mention of the “young Hasid”, 47 years before the events of the first chapter, is notable because of the focus on his dancing skills and the description of him as a “wizard”. It’s reminiscent of the description of old Malachi, a great dancer, mentioned in the chapter before. Presumably, it’s Malachi when he is much younger.

It’s not clear at this point what he means when he says he’s looking for wife, not a dancer.

Moshe had been relieved the weekend was a success, considering how close it came to being derailed. He’d sent out flyers for the event weeks before to Jewish synagogues, boardinghouses, and hostels all along the Northeastern states to promote the event in four languages — German, Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. But most of the flyers were lost or thrown out, and flyers in the wrong language were sent to the wrong congregations.

In Baltimore in particular, a Jewish clothing-store merchant accidentally forwarded a flyer to the advertising department of the Baltimore Sun. Since the merchant regularly ran ads with them and “always pays”, the newspaper simply had it translated by a clerk who claimed he spoke Yiddish, and went ahead and ran the ad. The choppy English translation “was a disaster”.

While the original Yiddish mentioned fun “Jewish memories” and “Red-hot klezmer” (Jewish folk music), the translation said “watch the Jews burn and dance and have fun.” The result was fury and panic among the Jewish community in Baltimore. Moshe heard about this and spent $400 to worked out the mess with the merchant and run a better ad, but the Baltimore Jews were unconvinced.

McBride makes a point of the newspaper running the ad “because the Jew always pays”. I think it serves as a reminder of the social climate the story is operating under. It’s also worth mentioning that despite the man’s reference to stereotypes about Jews being focused on money, it’s the newspaper’s greed (just take the money and run it attitude) that results in this situation.

By five weeks before the Katz concert, Moshe was $1,700 in the hole and feeling low. In need of “spiritual renewal”, he goes to the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, the only Jewish grocery in Chicken Hill, which is owned by a rabbi named Yakov Flohr. Yakov suggests reading from his talmud (Jewish religious text), which Moshe spends several afternoons doing in the store’s back storeroom where Yakov’s youngest daughter Chona, 17, works. Chona is crippled with polio, having one lame leg that the shorter than the other, but is “a quiet beauty”.

Here, the book begins to set up what the titular Heaven & Earth Grocery Store serves as in this story and also what this book is really about. As the only Jewish grocery store and a place where someone would go looking for “spiritual renewal”, it’s a place that serves as more than a store, but as the heart of the community.

Moshe, 21, and Chona get to know each other and he tells her about his woes — he’s in debt and worried the theater is on the verge of collapse. In response, she reminds him of “the story of Moses and the burning coals”.

In the story, the infant Moses is placed between a plate of burning coals on one side and a plate of jewelry and gold on the other by the Pharaoh. If baby Moses reaches for the jewels, it’s a sign of intelligence, which makes him a threat to the Pharaoh’s heir, and he must be killed. If be reaches for the coals, he’s clearly dumb and can live. Baby Moses starts to reach for a jewels, but an angel intervenes, moving his hand to the coals instead. The sting of the coals causes the baby to put his burning hand in his mouth, giving him a life-long speech impediment. But he lives and becomes a greatest leader of the Jewish people.

She recites it in Hebrew, and Moshe only understands “every fourth word” but is enraptured by the story and shortly after proposes to Chona. Chona’s parents are delighted that someone wants to marry their disabled daughter, and a wedding is quickly planned. Wrapped up in his new love, Moshe stops sulking, borrows some money to place some proper ads for the Katz event, and sales take off. 400 tickets were sold in all, and he sells out of all food and drink for the weekend.

The morning after, he sees the “dancing Hasid”. Moshe calls out to him, asking if he found a wife, though the man now says that he doesn’t need a wife. Moshe then says that “wherever you live, it’s home to the greatest dancer in the world, that’s for sure” and the man hands him a bottle of plum brandy (“slivovitz”). As the men greet each other, a small explosion is heard and a puff of smoke appears above one of the homes nearby. “That’s a bad sign” the Hasidic man comments.

The “home to the greatest dancer in the world” line is what was inscribed on the mezuzah that was found with the skeleton at the beginning of the book. Again, it’s not clear what this finding a wife or not business is all about yet.

Plum brandy is commonly associated with Ashkenazi Jews and is considered to be part of their cultural heritage. It’s grain-free, making it a good spirit for Passover since leavened products are prohibited during Passover.

Chona tells Moshe the story of Moses and the burning coals, maybe because it shows that a situation that initially seems bad can be a gift in disguise. It sounds like Moshe didn’t even understand the story, but was rather enraptured by her telling of it and it was enough to turn things around for him.

Chapter 3: Twelve

The day after the explosion, Moshe asks Nate if he heard it. Nate says no, and makes a joke saying that “ain’t nothing blowing up there except hard times.” Moshe offers him $15 in response, but Nate declines and changes the topic to dancing. The men talk about Anna Morse, who now owns a funeral home, though it used to be a dance hall for black people. Nate comments that black people around here no longer have anywhere nearby to go dancing.

Later, Moshe discusses with Chona if he should open up the theater to black customers. Chona acknowledges that the “goyim” (non-Jews) won’t like it, but that money from black customers is the same as any other money.

Four weeks later, he books Chick Webb, a black entertainer. The night of Chick’s performance, the black people who attend seem unsure and scared of what to expect since downtown Pottstown has historically been functionally off-limits to black people. But once the music starts, the crowd erupts into a joyous and raucous celebration of music. Moshe is “spellbound” at the sight of Webb transforming and delighting the crowd.

He also notices that Webb is disabled — he has a slight hunchback — like his beloved wife. He thinks to himself that “cripples have brought me fortune: Moses, Chona, and Chick.” That night, Moshe begins having dreams of Moses, twelve in all on twelve different nights where Moses is in twelve different cities entering twelve different gates and looking out at twelves different peaks. He does not tell Chona about the dreams because he sees them as “unholy” and “superstition from his Romanian past”.

Moshe is finding patterns and meanings to connect things in a positive way. When he thinks about Moses, Chona and Chick each having disabilities, he sees their disabilities as something that brings him luck and fortune. When he has these dreams, he decides there’s power to the number twelve and frames his own life in the same way to bring that same positive energy into his life.

It’s notable that Moshe sees the dreams as “unholy”. The theme of superstition vs religion comes up again and again in this book and it’s clear Moshe is leaning into his superstitious side and believes doing so is going against his religion in some ways.

As a result, Moshe begins to see and organize his own life in sets of twelve. He invests in twelve penny stock and books twelve black bands — both decisions that cause his fortune to grow. People in the city are upset with this Jewish theater inviting black people into the area. The city building inspector descends upon him, as well as the fire commissioner, with complaints. Moshe fights back by paying them off and paying his landlord an extra $150 for each black entertainer he books.

With the income these new bookings are bringing in, Moshe is able to buy his theater outright, as well as another theater nearby two years later. He continues to expand his operations over the next five years. He’s able to buy his mother a nice house, to buy Chona a comfortable apartment above the grocery store, and he buys the grocery store from Yakov.

Many of the Jews around them have been moving away from Chicken Hill to the nicer area downtown. Moshe, too, wants to sell the store and for them move to a nicer area (“where the Americans are”). He tells Chona that she doesn’t need to work. Chona fights him on it. Chona is considered unconventional — having read too many books and having “wild” ideas about stuff — but is well-loved around town. She wants to keep the store there and run it. He even tries to convince her to leave by telling her about the black cloud he saw, a bad omen in his mind, but Chona dismisses it as “superstition”. Finally, Moshe agrees, even though the store loses money.


So, Moshe carries on, booking bands and running his business. Eventually he starts to think about his whole fixation on the number 12 and how it’s silly “sorcery and witchery” and he needs to think newer, more modern ways instead.

In 1935, a eleven years after that Mickey Katz concert, Moshe tells Chona that it’s time to sell the grocery store and move downtown. He’s put a deposit down on a nice, new house. But Chona says he can get his deposit back, or she can visit him there from time to time if he wants to move.

Moshe says that this area is black and poor, of which they are neither. He says the people moving downtown are “our people”. Chona doesn’t care, reminding him again that their money is the same. She asks him to think about the people they serve here, “don’t you see the well they draw from?” she asks him. She reminds him of Mickey Webb and how his mandolin player was missing two fingers. When she brings up Chick Webb, Moshe remarks that “Webb was expensive, for a cripple”, and Chona is upset and stays upset with him for many days.

Over time, Moshe’s mentality begins to shift. As he finds success, he forgets the mentality that made him rich. He forgets his ability to appreciate the “crippled” people who brought him to where he was and he forgets to cherish their imperfections instead of judging them for it.

Meanwhile, Chona’s views have not changed, or perhaps her appreciation for these things has always run deeper and was rooted in something more substantive than Moshe. When she asks “don’t you see the well they draw from”, she is reminding him that these people and their imperfections are what make them stronger and better because of what they’ve had to overcome. Moshe has forgotten this or perhaps never understood it.

Moshe sees the people downtown as their people because he identifies with them in terms of their Jewish heritage and the fact that they are of a more similar socioeconomic status. However, that brings up the question of what makes someone “your people” — is it just race and financial status? Or is there something else? Chona feels that the people in this community in on Chicken Hill are her people — not the people downtown — because they know her and because they helped them to get to where they are.

Chona also makes the point that they are here to “serve” these people. She views the work they do, even if they profit off of it, as bringing something to the community and serving the community in their way.


In 1936, twelve years into their marriage, Chona becomes ill and is soon bed-ridden. She has a pain in the stomach and fainting spells. They hire Nate’s wife, Addie Timblin, to help run the store. Doc Earl Roberts is the local physician, but Chona does not like him. He marches in the Ku Klux Klan parade each year, and he has a limp makes it clear that it’s him. Instead, Moshe and Chona have to travel to Reading, a town nearby, to see the doctor, though it doesn’t seem to be helping.

Their black neighbors on Chicken Hill begin to visit daily as Chona continues to worsen. They bring food and laughter in gratitude to Chona and for everything she had contributed to their neighborhood over the years.

As Chona continues to decline, Moshe’s older cousin Isaac Moskovitz, 37, comes to see him. When Isaac was 14, he led Moshe through the Carpathian Mountains and across Eastern Europe until they found a place to live and work in Hamburg, rolling cigars for three years in order to afford passage to America. Isaac pretends to be there asking for professional advice, but Moshe is well aware that Isaac owns the largest theater in Philadelphia and needs no help from him.

Instead, Isaac soon turns to the topic of Chona and gently suggests that she be brought to a care facility to live out her days. Moshe, who Isaac loves and thinks has “never uttered a harsh or angry word toward anyone”, suddenly becomes angry and aggressive at the suggestion, shocking Isaac. Moshe tells him that “she will live.”

There is a lot of genuine love and trust between the cousins. But Moshe is angry at the suggestion because he hasn’t come to terms with the idea that Chona will likely die soon.

Chapter 4: Dodo

The Pottstown Association of Negro Men, a small group of black community leaders, meets every third Saturday night at the Timlin house. Nate isn’t home yet, but he’s the one whose opinion really matters in their community. Instead, Rusty, Rusty’s uncle Bags and Reverend Ed “Snook” Spriggs are in attendance. Today, they talk about Chona likely passing away soon, and Addie gets upset at their flippant and disrespectful tone.

When Nate arrives, he alerts them that “Dodo“, a young deaf 12-year-old boy, has is gone missing and was seen riding a train earlier, possibly headed to Philadelphia. Dodo went deaf after an accident where the stove in his house blew up, injuring him. They need to find someone with a car to track him down. The bakery has a truck, but the business, Fabicelli’s bakery, was recently sold to a young Jewish man named Malachi.

In chapter 15, we learn that Dodo’s real name is Holly Herring, in case anyone is wondering.

Malachi only gets a brief mention here, but he has now purchased a small business.

Nate goes out back to grab his coat before heading out, but then he spots the boy, Dodo, sitting near the riverbank. He chastises Dodo for fooling around riding trains, saying that Dodo should go home and take his well-deserved punishment from his mom. However, Dodo pulls out a slip of paper. Nate can’t read, but Dodo says that’s a notice that his mother has died and he needs to leave. Nate tells him not to worry about the paper and brings him inside.

Chapter 5: The Stranger

Two days later, Malachi is at Moshe’s doorstep, having already made a two visits in the preceding days. Malachi is dressed in a fedora and a ratty suit. Moshe tells him to go away, but Malachi uses his foot as a doorstop to prevent him from shutting the door. Malachi recognizes him and also says he needs flour so he can make Challah bread. Moshe, tired and stressed from keeping vigil over Chona, keeps trying to get rid of him. Moshe tells him that his wife is sick, and Malachi responds that it’s “why I’m here”.

Finally, Malachi forces his way in, giving Moshe a shove. He tells Moshe that he’s now found a wife and continues to reference their conversations from twelve years ago. Moshe has no idea what he’s talking about until Malachi mentions the “greatest dance in the world”. When he hears those words, his “memory fluttered back like pages in a book”. He recalls falling in love with Chona, hearing Mickey Katz play and even meeting this man.

With his memories resurfaced, Moshe is excited to see him, and Malachi introduces himself. Moshe recalls the bad omen of black smoke, but Malachi simply states that it “was a bad time” and that “those times have ended.”

Chapter 6: Challah

Two days later, Chona’s fever breaks, and she slowly starts to recover. A Philadelphia doctor sent by Isaac says it was a blood problem that “produced a brain attack” and that she might not be able to walk again. Moshe is just happy she is alive and he attributes her recovery to arrival of Malachi. Malachi had started delivering a loaf of challah each day to Moshe, saying that it “will bring healing wherever it goes”.

Initially, Moshe had been skeptical. He doesn’t like challah, so he handed off the first loaf Malachi gave him to Nate. Nate tasted it and disliked it and fed it to a dog that had always been a nuisance. After that day, the dog leaves Moshe alone, and Moshe starts to think that “magic … seemed to accompany everything Malachi touched”.

Malachi’s left his superstitious ways behind for a long time. But with his wife in a dire situation and a new hope of her recovery, Malachi seems to believe again — this time in Moshe.

The themes of religion vs superstition vs “rational” thought appears frequently in this book. Malachi is more superstitious than religious and in his moment of need, he turns to his superstitions and not to religion the way Chona does.

In Chapter 3, Malachi tells us that he considers superstition to be from his “Romanian past”, and it’s likely belief in superstition is more widely accepted there and his childhood is why he leans toward superstition moreso than people like Chona.

In the next chapter, the book talks about his negative associations with his childhood experiences. It’s possible part of his desire to leave his superstitious ways behind had to do with his desire to leave his childhood behind for good. However, despite his desire to think in more modern ways, his childhood and his superstitions are still a part of him and he finds himself thinking in those terms regardless.


Moshe has few friends, but he befriends Malachi. While Nate is a friend, because he is black, there is a “space between them”, which isn’t the case with Malachi who shares and understands his ancestry. But while Moshe is proud to be an American and is eager to adopt American ways, Malachi is happy to be “greenhorn” and stick to old world ways. He keeps kosher and carries a prayer book with him.

When Moshe presents him with a mezuzah pendant (normally something that belong on door, not as a piece of jewelry) inscribed with the words “Home of the Greatest Dancer in the World”, Malachi declines. He suggests giving it to Chona instead, which Moshe does.

Here we learn that the inscribed jewelry that was brought up at the beginning of the book was originally a gift from Moshe to Malachi. Malachi rejecting the pendant is a fairly literal illustration of him wanting to stick with the old ways and being disinclined to adjust their customs in ways that are modern or different.

Business at the bakery is slow, partially because there’s little need for a Jewish bakery when most of the Jewish families have left the area. Also, Malachi is a mediocre baker. The challah is not great, but everything else he makes is much worse. One day, Moshe goes to talk to him about his concerns. Malachi says there was no particular reason that he bought a bakery other than the fact that it was for sale, and that he’s learning to bake as he goes along.

When Moshe sees a young boy working in the theater, it stirs up a memory in Moshe. He recalls being in Romania as a child, standing outside a bread shop, when Isaac burst outside with a loaf of bread. He remembers Isaac hissing at him to run before they get caught. Malachi recognizes that it’s not challah that Moshe dislikes, but “what it stirs inside you”. He understands that Moshe has negative associations with challah, and he recommends prayer.

The book has only given us glimpses of Moshe’s childhood in Romania with Isaac. It’s clear they lived in difficult times, and they’re memories that Moshe has not come to peace with. Moshe has negative feelings about his childhood in Romania and things that he associates it.

Moshe also encourages Malachi to let Nate find a better baker to come work for him, but Malachi is reluctant to hire someone who does not keep kosher. Malachi tells Moshe that he think black people are what’s wrong with America. Moshe disagrees, saying that the black people in his life have been good friends and have helped him and Chona out a lot over the years. Malachi also says that he thinks “the Negroes have the advantage in this country. At least they know who they are.”

Finally, Malachi announces that he wants Moshe to help him sell the bakery and will hand over the papers “tomorrow”. But he doesn’t show up tomorrow, and Moshe doesn’t see him for another three years.

Chapter 7: A New Problem

Instead of Malachi handing off the papers, Moshe had simply discovered that the bakery was shut down a few days later. Then, shortly after he’d received a postcard in the mail from Chicago from Malachi as well as instructions for selling the bakery. Meanwhile, Moshe’s last conversation with him about his dislike and envy of black people in America continues to bother him.

By now, it’s been a month since Malachi left town. Nate comes to talk to Moshe about his nephew Dodo. When the topic of his injury comes up, Doc Roberts is brought up, which is a sore spot for Moshe. Chona has long been a public critic of Doc Roberts and his KKK activities, despite Doc Roberts being a very prominent person in their community. While Chona has enough social standing that no one has tried to stop her, her intense opposition to him has caused some unrest in town.

Nate tells him about the passing of Thelma Herring, who is Addie’s sister and was Dodo’s mother. He and his wife are caring for the boy, but a man from the city wants to take him to a special school. Nate wants to keep Dodo in the theater basement for a few days so they can’t take Dodo away. Moshe is reluctant to get on the wrong side of government officials, but he knows Chona would tell him to help the boy.

The next night, he tells her about helping Nate out and thinks she’ll approve, so he’s surprised when she gets mad at him. She tells him that the basement is no place for a boy to sleep and tells him to bring him here.

Chapter 8: Paper

The following Saturday, Patty “Newspaper”/”Paper” Millison is at the grocery store relaying the recent news and gossip, something she’s known for and the reason she got her nicknames. Paper is also beautiful and charming. Today, she’s decided the big news is that Enzo “Big Soap” Carissimi has punched Fatty Davis and knocked his gold tooth out in doing so.

Big Soap is a large Italian man, and Fatty Davis was the stout owner of the only local “jook joint” (a bar with food and a jukebox). The two were close friends with Fatty having tutored Big Soap in English when he first immigrated. The worked together for years at various plants after graduating from high school and often walked home together.

Paper says that the thing that prompted it was Fatty getting “too big for his britches” after recently getting promoted over Big Soap. He got lazy. When the inspector came around, it became clear they weren’t taking proper safety precautions and didn’t test the fire hoses. They both got fired.

As everyone else gossips about the news, Addie and Paper notice a tall black stranger in the store. They speculate about who he might be, suspecting that he’s someone from the state looking to take Dodo to the “horrific Pennhurst sanatorium”. If so, they think it’s odd that he’s still here since Chona has let him know three times already that the boy left the state. Paper resolves to figure out who around here has been “running their mouth” about Dodo’s whereabouts.

The grocery store’s role as a community center is on full display in this chapter. We also see how the community sticks together, with Paper helping to root out who is creating problems for Dodo.

Chapter 9: The Robin and the Sparrow

Fatty’s sister, Bernice Davis, lives next door to the grocery store. Addie dislikes Bernice and finds her “disagreeable” and “mean-spirited”. Bernice works for Irv and Marv Skrupskelis as a cook, and Chona think’s it’s appropriate since she considers Irv and Marv to be two of the most “evil, dispiriting, quarrelsome Jews on Chicken Hill”. Bernice has a lot of kids, but no one knows who the father is and people are afraid to ask. Bernice and Chona had once been childhood friends, but it has been years since the two woman had seen each other face-to-face.


Bernice’s father, Shad Davis, used to be good friends with Chona’s father, Yakov or “Reb” as he was called them.

Yakov had been was one of the first Jews to settle in Pottstown. He began as a peddler, but was rub out of town by the hardware store owner. Instead, he got a job at the tannery and then later was working with livestock. He was cheerful and enthusiastic, and he view the black people he worked with as being immigrants like him — “forced by poverty and lack of resources to learn many skills and continually adjust”. He soon started sewing and selling cheap clothes to his co-workers, and he did other jobs. He sold delicious roasted chestnuts during the holidays.

When he saved up $600, he bought at old icehouse, with plans to convert it into a grocery store with an apartment above it, and a distillery to convert into a shul (synagogue). He hoped more Jewish families would arrive in the area, and they did. But when 17 Jewish families had moved in, town leaders decided it was enough and used rules and intimidation to put a stop to it. Meanwhile, the Jewish families were of varying ancestry and did not get along.

Norman Skrupskelis was the head of the only Lithuanian family in town and others were scared of him, though he made and sold very good shoes. His sons, Irv and Marv, later took over the business. Irv was the more personable of the two, so he managed the sales, though he was unwilling to accept returns.

To build his home, Reb needed muscle, so he hired four of his black co-workers and Shad Davis to help him. This crew built his 3-story house with the grocery one the first floor in 5 weeks. For the shul, Reb also wanted Shad to build it, but the other Jewish families wanted a young architect from a fancy school to build it instead, and Reb hesitantly agreed. They paid the architect the entirety of the $1,700 that the Jewish congregation had contributed to the building fund. The architect then gave $300 to a construction crew along with some sketches and then skipped town with the rest of the money. The construction crew did some work, but the building soon collapsed.

With great difficulty and calling on various friends and relatives, the congregation managed to scrounge up another $350. With that, Reb hired Shad and the Ahavat Achim synagogue was completed a month later.

Shad and his wife, Lulu, had two children, Bernice and Fatty. While he build strong building for others, his own house was rickety. Instead, Shad hoped to save up money and move to Philadelphia and get his children solid educations, though “none of his dreams would come to pass”.

Instead, Shad soon fell ill and died. When he was alive, Shad distrusted banks and instead his savings were help by a financial advisor. After his death, the man absconded with the money, leaving Shad’s family penniless. Reb and his wife helped out by occasionally giving the Davis family food. They didn’t ask questions when Marv Skrupskelis started showing up doing odd jobs at the Davis house, “occasionally trailing Shad’s daughter, Bernice, about the yard”.


The families stayed in touch since Chona would walk with the Davis children to school, and Chona and Bernice started school together. One day at school, the students in their class were asked to each get up and sing. If they did, they were labelled a “robin” and if not a “sparrow”. Chona was happy to sing and labelled a robin. Bernice refused to sing and was labelled a sparrow. However, Chona had heard Bernice sing many times around her home and knew Bernice could sing. It was then that Chona realized that Bernice was someone who kept things bottled up, just like Irv and Marv and their father Norman.

The two girls become close friends. One day in home economics, the girls are assigned to make dresses, and they work on both the dresses together. When they present their assignments in class, Chona is praised. But Bernice (who is black) is chastised for using a French stitch instead of one they learned in class, even though Chona had the same stitch on her dress. The teacher rips up Bernice’s dress even though it is the most beautiful of all the dresses in the class. Bernice blames Chona for the incident, never goes back to school and rarely ventures outside the house after that incident.


Chona once dreamed of leaving Chicken Hill behind, but in Moshe she met a man who allowed and encouraged her to live a full life. He was supportive of her desire to grow and learn and pursue her passions. She gets busy with her own life and doesn’t spend much time thinking about Bernice.

Chona can’t have children, but had wanted kids. Now, in Dodo, she has a child to take care of, which delights her. The boy is sweet and hardworking and well behaved. It was only ever ever meant to be temporary though and “she had not meant to love him so much”.

Chona plays a game with the neighborhood kids where she’ll ask them to give her marbles in exchange for things they might want in the store. She keeps them in a jar in the back. The pile of marbles in the jar would occasionally diminish and “the same marble would appear in a child’s hand”, and Chona didn’t mind and loved Dodo’s generosity.

The implication is that Dodo would take the marbles and give them to the neighborhood kids, who would then give them back to Chona for more items.

The man from the state who was looking to take Dodo away was Carl Boydkins — and now they’ve sent someone new to look for him, too. Chona is concerned, but she has a plan, though it involves Bernice. She goes to see Bernice and before she can finish her request, Bernice has told her that she should create an entrance from Chona’s yard to her yard. If the man from the state comes by, Chona can send Dodo over since one more black kid playing around will blend right in.

Chona feels a rush of emotion and wants to thank Bernice and hold her hand, but before she can Bernice has already shut the door again.

Chapter 10: The Skrup Shoe

Doc Earl Roberts had heard rumors of a Jewish woman illegally hiding a black boy from the government from his distant cousin Carl Boydkins who worked in the state welfare department. They grew up on neighboring farms together and both incorrectly believe themselves to be descendants of the Mayflower pilgrims. In reality, their lineage involves an Irish sailor named Ed Bole who ended up serving the Chinese emperor, went back to England and made some money in shipping due to his knowledge of Chinese. He died, but left his wife and children with some money. His wife fell in love with the nanny, and they ended up raising the children in Pottstown and divided their land among them when they died.

The Roberts and the Boydkins families had adjoining plots. Doc Robert’s father sold their farm and land eventually, in 1929. The Boydkins did not. The Roberts’ land switched hands a few times, eventually ending up in the stewardship of Irishman named Fitz-Hugh who began building mills on the land which grew into small factories, and he hired many workers who would dump sludge from their factories into the creek nearby. Eventually, it grew into a large factory which constantly emitted grey fumes and produced a steady output of filthy sludge into the nearby streams — the same streams that provided water to the Boydkins’ crops and livestock.

The Boydkins protested but it was now 1932, a great war was coming and city leaders regarded these factories and their production of gunpowder and engines and whatnot were the priority to keep America free. The Boydkins were forced to sell their land for cheap.

Carl was tall and athletic while Doc was a “bookworm who’d had polio”, resulting in a cleft left foot. The cleft left foot resulted in both social and romantic rejection for Doc when people saw it. When he lamented about this to his mother in high school, she took him to see Norman Skrupskelis. A week later, Norman had constructed the perfect shoe for him — to accommodate for the shape and arch of his foot and the height difference. So, each year Doc returned to have the shoe replaced, though he took Norman’s silent demeanor as arrogance and resented having to do so. Later, when Irv and Marvin took over, Doc found someone in Philadelphia to make his shoe because he couldn’t stomach the idea of asking his arrogant, Jewish classmates to do so.

The book starts to give us an idea of Doc Roberts’s mindset — his deep insecurity and a tendency to assume the worst of people. The picture it paints is of an unhappy, angry and fearful person. He is resentful of having to rely on a Jew for help and is overeager to paint them as being “arrogant” likely because he feels they should be deferential to him.

After initially getting his special shoe, he quickly took notice of Chona in school who had the same distinctive shoe and imperfect gait. He began to develop feelings for her their senior year since she had transformed at some point into quite the beauty. Despite his hesitation due to her Jewish ancestry, Doc works up the nerve to blurt out a mumbled invitation for Chona to join the debate team that he’s president of — but Chona quickly rejects the suggestion. Afterward, Doc is upset over having stooped to having given a “Jewess” like her his consideration.

After graduation, Doc goes to Penn State for medical school and ventures out into the world, but he finds big cities to be too full of strange people and always plans to eventually return to his hometown. He’s disappointed when he returns to Pottstown to find it full of immigrants, with the quaint farms replaced by factories. He married a nice farmgirl from a nearby town, but she eventually disappointed him by being lazy, boring and gained weight.

Doc eventually gets invited to a meeting of the Knights of Pottstown to promote “good Christian values”, which turns out to be the Pottstown branch of the Ku Klux Klan. Doc finds that it’s mostly a club of good people he knows, talking about everyday things like farming logistics. He remembers Chona and is indignant when she writes to the newspaper about him marching in the KKK parade, but he’s still interested in trying to help her when she comes to him at one point about her illness.

One day, Carl tells him about the “deaf and dumb” black kid that the state wants to take into custody but is unable to locate. He wants Doc to write a report, signing off on having checked the kid out. Doc is reluctant to get involved, and he doesn’t think the kid belongs in Pennhurst which is for the mentally unwell. When Carl tells Doc that Chona is involved in hiding the kid, Doc convinces Carl not to involve the police for now, and he says he’ll go check the situation out himself.

Chapter 11: Gone

Chona is running the store when Doc Roberts shows up. While “white folks” in Pottstown consider him to be a kind and gentle country doctor, the black people of Chicken Hill fear him, regarding him as “trouble”. Chona makes polite conversation, but feels unwell. Dodo is behind the butcher’s case, standing on the trapdoor ladder that goes from the store level into the basement. Dodo senses Chona’s alarm as she talks, and he notices a tremble in her hand that he knows can signal a seizure is coming.

He reads her lips as she seems to get angry with the mention of “parades”, which soon leads into a full-blown argument between the two. Suddenly, Chona seizes and drops to the floor. Dodo comes out of the trapdoor opening to see the man hovering over Chona. After the seizure stops, instead of rolling her over onto her side as Addie would have done, Dodo watches as the man leaves her laying on her back and starts putting his hands on her. He feels uncomfortable as he sees where Doc’s hands are.

Dodo shoves Doc Roberts off of Chona and tries to pin the man down as Chona has a second seizure. Doc sees Chona’s seizure and fights back, hitting the boy. Finally, Addie comes in, and she and Doc Roberts rush to help Chona while she continues to shake. Doc disappears momentarily, and when he returns, he’s accompanied by two policemen and he points out Dodo.

Knowing what has happened, Dodo runs. He’s running on the rooftop of a house when an officer reaches out to grab him as he makes a large jump. The officer’s reach unbalances his jump and Dodo comes crashing down — followed by blackness and silence.

Doc Roberts initially is reluctant to give the boy Dodo more trouble for no reason, but his attitude quickly changes and he’s more than willing to turn him over the moment he is unhappy.

It’s also not entirely clear at this point whether Dodo misinterpreted what Doc was doing. Dodo felt it was not right, but Dodo is also a 12 year old boy.

But this gets revisited later and it becomes clearer that Doc’s actions were highly inappropriate. Moreover, as a doctor she should have known better than to leave her lying on her back (instead of rolling her to her side) which could by why she had a second, worse seizure.

Part II – Gotten

Chapter 12: Monkey Pants

Dodo awakes in The Pennhurst State Hospital for the Insane and Feeble-Minded. Situated next to him is “Monkey Pants“, a painfully thin, white boy around his age with a twisted mess of limbs (a condition later to be known as ““cerebral palsy”). Dodo’s ankles, hip and right fibula has been shattered from his fall, and he is handcuffed to his bed. His head is in a fog when the doctor comes to speak to him, and Dodo is quickly determined to be an imbecile. He keeps waiting for his aunt, uncle or Chona to appear and take him home.

Dodo is scared and sad, but Monkey Pants laughs as his new nickname. Dodo is excited to have someone to talk to, but Monkey Pants struggles to speak, and Dodo watches as he gets increasingly frustrated. Dodo sings the boy a short song, which seems to relax him. There is a mutual recognition that the two share the same plight of being “remarkable minds trapped inside bodies” where there are unable to express a fraction of their thoughts and feelings. Also, that surviving in this place would require caution and wisdom.

Finally, Monkey Pants struggles again, but manages to communicate to Dodo a simple: “Shh”. Dodo understands his message: “Play dumb. Be stupid. Don’t say a word. It’s the only way.”

Shortly after, other patients – hulking with various disabilities – enter the room, and Monkey Pants begins to soil himself. Dodo senses that he’s doing so draw interest away from Dodo as an act of solidarity.

Chapter 13: Cowboy

Since departing town, Malachi has written Moshe several letters, sent from Janów Lubelski, Poland, a small settlement where Malachi has opened a chicken farm. Malachi writes back, attempting to keep things light. However, Chona is now in coma, staying in a hospital in Reading. Dodo is in state custody.

He thinks about the events of the previous night here he booked two bands to play a dual date — Lionel Hampton and Mario Bauzá, Machito and the Afro-Cubans. Moshe was unfamiliar with the second band. The situation had arisen out a mess of bookings and cancellations and replacements. Last night, a conflict broke out backstage over which band was to be the headliner when Mario realized they were merely opening for Lionel. Moshe managed to calm Mario down, promising that Isaac would book him in his theater and that they’d do a proper show here later.

That night, Mario and his Afro-Cubans had introduced Moshe and the crowd to Latin music and they went wild. When Lionel entered the stage after, his relatively staid swing music fell “on ambivalent ears”. Thinking back on this, Moshe writes to Malachi that “old ways will not survive here” and that perhaps “I should be a cowboy”.


Three weeks later, Malachi mails him a package that is very difficult to open. When he finally manages to see the contents, he finds a tiny pair of cowboy pants with a tiny star of David sewn on them. Moshe laughs at Malachi’s joke, and decides to send it back in a package that will be even harder to open. He puts the pants in a tobacco can, and that into a coffee can sealed with wax and all of that into a preztel can and asks Nate to solder it shut. Nate says he’ll ask Fatty to do it.

Moshe also wants to talk about Dodo. He wants to get together with Addie and him and Isaac and figure something out. Nate tells Moshe that he’s done enough and that it’s “in God’s hands” and Moshe realizes that there is a lot about the black experience in America that he does not understand. Meanwhile, Nate is filled with a “burning with dark, murderous rage” when he thinks about what has happened with Dodo.

Chapter 14: Differing Weights and Measures

Nate is at Fatty’s jook when Fatty begins to grow concerned over Nate’s alcohol consumption. Fatty has recently started serving moonshine at the jook thanks to an encounter in Philly.

After the incident with the inspector and Big Soap punching him and knocking his tooth out, Fatty needed to get his tooth fixed. He decided to go to Philadelphia since black people didn’t trust Doc Roberts and there wasn’t other places around he could get it done safely. His cousin Gene runs a successful dry-cleaning business that his wife inherited from her father, and they live out in Philadelphia. Gene’s is one of Pottstown’s success stories, with them preparing their daughter to attend cotillion and “trying hard to be white” while forgetting where they came from.

Fatty planned to stay with Gene while he got his tooth sorted out, except that he arrived at a bad time. Gene had recently purchased an old horse-drawn water pumper and needed a horse to operate it. He’d talked the white owner of the Chestnut Hill Riding Company, Thomas Sturgis, into renting out a stallion for him to use. The ride back to Gene’s house had gone smoothly, but when the stallion was attached to a harness and wagon it bolted due to the unfamiliarity of it. The horse ended up flinging both Gene and the water pumper into the street, breaking three of Gene’s ribs and puncturing a lung and landing him in the hospital.

Two days after the accident, Fatty shows up, and Gene’s wife is desperate for him to stay to help run the dry-cleaners for a few weeks. In addition to the jook joint, Fatty runs a number of other businesses so running the dry-cleaners is nothing new. She promises to find him a dentist, the week’s worth of profits and she offers him several gallons of her brother’s moonshine. Before long, Fatty’s tooth had been replace with a wooden one and returned to Pottstown with 14 gallons of high-quality moonshine, which he began selling as “North Carolina Blood of Christ” moonshine.


Now, as Nate sits there downing moonshine, Fatty grows increasingly concerned. He considers calling the cops on his own place, just so they can bust in and interrupt Nate’s drinking. He knows that they wouldn’t find anything, but there’s four officers on the force and one of them — Billy O’Connell — could cause trouble. O’Connell was the cop who chased down Dodo. If he showed up with Nate drunk here, it would be bad news.

Instead, Fatty decides to tell all the patrons including Nate that he’s closing early. But after everyone else clears out, Nate is still sitting there and Fatty is worried. He remembers from a stint in Graterford Prison that one of the older prisoners, called Dirt, had known Fatty when he was in prison. Dirt had been there on a lifetime sentence for three murders, and Fatty had watched him gouge a man’s eye out. And yet, Dirt had said Nate was someone he’d never want to cross. He also said that Nate used to go by the name “Nate Love“.

Rusty’s there, too, and also looks scared of Nate’s reaction. Fatty tells Nate he’s about to close. They tentatively offer their condolences about the situation with Dodo, suggesting that maybe something can be done about it. Nate mumbles a quiet response and finally they take him home without incident. Afterwards, they talk about what Nate said: “Differing weights mean differing measures. The Lord knows ’em both.” Fatty explains that they need to break Dodo out of Pennhurst or else “there’s gonna be trouble”.

Nate’s comment essentially says that different situations call for different responses. And “the lord knows ’em both” indicates that ultimately what the “right” thing to do is something that should be judged based on that (and not perhaps what’s legal).

Fatty understands that in this situation, Nate knows that what’s happened is so egregious and unjust that the only thing to be done is find Dodo a way out or Nate will resort to something even more drastic.

Chapter 15: The Worm

Fioria Carissimi (Enzo “Big Soap” Carissimi’s mother) hears about the situation with Dodo from Vivana Agnello. Vivana is the president of the Volunteer Women’s Association of St. Aloysius Catholic Church where they meet twice a month to conduct their business and gossip. She’s told that Dodo’s mother had collected $1,200 from the stove company after it blew up and that once she died and the boy’s relatives were drinking that money away and then paid the Jews to hide boy, but that the Jews turned him over to the state anyway.

Vivana’s unreliable version of events basically has all these people acting in ways that fit their stereotypes of what they’re like.

Note that later in the chapter, Fatty says that Dodo’s mother did not get paid by the stove company. Given how inaccurate Vivana’s facts are, I think it’s safe to assume she’s wrong about that as well.

Fioria goes to see Pia Fabicelli, who stopped attending the group after Vivana made a disparaging comment about her bother Eugenio Fabicelli’s decision to sell his bakery to Malachi. Pia works in the mayor’s office and had most of the useful gossip to share with the group until she left.

They talk about Dodo. When Doc Roberts gets mentioned, Pia gets irritated, noting that he as “fast hands” and would never go to him again. However, she says this discreetly since she knows her husband Matteo would do something about it if he knew that Doc Roberts had gotten too handsy with his wife. Fioria is mindful of this, too, because she knows if Matteo got into something, Enzo would back him up and Fatty wouldn’t be far behind — and the cops liked to keep an eye on him.

If there was any doubt that Dodo had misinterpreted what the doctor was doing, I think should clear it up. Doc is a handsy creep.

Enzo’s been working at the Dohler factory since he lost his job at the fire department. After work, Fioria goes to find her son who is with Rusty and Fatty. She tells him she’s heard rumors about Dodo and the grocery store, and she wants Enzo to “stay out of it” since she doesn’t want him getting mixed up in trouble. As she rants at Enzo, she demands to know what really happened, and Fatty fills her in on what he knows.

He tells her about Thelma and about the stove. He tells her that the stove company did not pay Thelma. He mentions that Chona’s clothes oddly seem to have been torn off during the incident. When Fioria hears that, she asks if Doc Roberts had been there, and Rusty answers affirmatively. Fioria asks what anyone actually saw. They say only Dodo saw anything and was upset about it, but that he’s deaf and dumb. With that, Fioria tells them in Italian that “God is watching what we do” and she leaves.

Fioria gets very interested in the part of the story about Chona potentially being assaulted, likely because she has already heard about Pia’s experiences — though, it’s not clear what she intends to do about it.

Chapter 16: The Visit

Chona is in a private room at the Reading hospital, as demanded by Isaac (the “rich theater owner” from Philadelphia), who paid cash for it. The nurses notice a black woman (Addie) who sits at her bedside reading a bible. While the doctors did not expect Chona to awaken from her coma, Addie noticed her mumbling a little each day and suspected she was still alive. When Nate and Moshe come to visit, she tells Moshe when he comes to visit that she thinks Chona is trying to say a prayer in the morning.

Nate tells Addie not to give him false hope. He also tells her that if anyone asks, to say that she wasn’t there. Addie argues with him, saying that she saw Doc Roberts sexually assaulting Chona. Nate tells Addie to stay out of it and that it’s “white folks’ business”. Nate says that according to Doc Roberts, Dodo attacked him because Doc had come looking for him, and Chona happened to take a fall in the process.

Addie asks Nate if he’s gone to visit Dodo and he says no. She points out that they have visiting hours, but then realizes that Nate’s reticence is due to the fact that he’s been in prison before. He feels uncomfortable going anywhere where people are being detained. He put that behind him and changed his name, too. He admits that the day he ended up getting drunk at Fatty’s was because he meant to go visit Dodo, but he couldn’t get himself to do it.

Nate mentions that he changed his name. We’re slowly getting hints that there’s more to Nate’s backstory that we don’t know yet. In Chapter 14, Dirt tells Fatty that Nate used to go by the name “Nate Love”.

Meanwhile, Addie feels certain that Reverend Ed Spriggs was the one who ratted Dodo out. Addie doesn’t tell Nate this, though, out of fear of what he might do if he knew. She has known Spriggs her whole life and she knows he is a lowlife who is afraid to stand up to white men. Moreover, very few people knew about Bernice hiding Dodo, and Bernice is not someone to talk. But Bernice was part of Ed’s congregation so she would have told him.

As they talk, Nate mentions that she saw Bernice and Spriggs arguing. Addie starts to realize that Nate might be piecing it together for himself that Spriggs was the leak. As the idea seems to coalesce for him, Addie tries telling him that he’s right and that they should stay out of “white folks’ business”. When he seems undeterred, she tries one last thing — to convince him to focus on going to see Dodo instead. He says he’ll think on it.

Chapter 17: The Bullfrog

At Pottstown’s Ahavat Achim synagogue, Junow Farnok (who prefers to be referred to by his chosen American name Mr. Husdon) is a successful Hungarian hatmaker and a new congregant. He has offered to pay $145 to build a new, larger marble mikvah (ritual bath area) for the shul. Meanwhile, Mr. Hudson’s wife is concerned about a giant bullfrog she discovered in the current mikvah.

At the monthly chevry (meeting of leaders of the shul), the current rabbi, Rabbi Karl “Fertzel” Feldman, discusses the mikvah Mr. Hudson. The chevry consists of a variety of the leaders as well as two young Jewish men, Hirshel and Yigel, they pulled off the street in order to meet quorum. Mr. Hudson is concerned about whether the mikvah’s water supply is what allowed the bullfrog to get in. It leads to questions about the water supply in general.

The rabbi admits that the shul does not actually have running water because it’s not connected to the city’s water table. The original architect didn’t check for it. There’s a farm nearby, owned by Gustowskis Plitzka, who has a well, but they’ve refused to sell it to them. At one point Chona called the police on the Plitzkas, which that made matters worse, so Chona took to hauling buckets of water up to the shul for their supply for a while.

The city recently built a reservoir on the hill above them and they are hopeful their water supply issues will be resolved that way. The problem is, the Plitzkas still hold a grudge over what happened with Chona, and the son of the family, Gus Plitzka, is head of city council. He’s even continued to use Chona’s public complaint about the water supply issue, as printed in the newspaper, as proof that Jews are “taking over”, and he’s used to help with his city council campaigns for years. So, their requests to the city about installing pipes to connect to the reservoir have only been met with various excuses and delays. (Mr. Hudson interrupts this conversation at various points to ask about the bullfrog again, but the others dismiss his concerns.)

Now, they’ve tapped into a well that provides water for a public water spigot near the Clover Dairy, though they don’t actually have permission to do so. The problem with that is that the town is growing, so sometimes that supply runs low. Mr. Hudson then suggests paying to connect their pipes to the Dairy, which is connected to the city’s water table. The problem with that is that Clover Dairy was recent acquired … by the Plitzkas.

The men tell Mr. Husdon that the Plitzkas and Doc run everything around here. Mr. Hudson says he’s concerned about them getting water illegally, considering that they are “stealing water from a town run by a goy who hates Jews”. The men tell him that they had nothing to do with laying those pipes. The man that did is is a black man, Shad Davis, who is dead now. Finally, Mr. Hudson suggests moving the shul off this hill to avoid dealing with any of these issues, though nothing is decided by the end of the conversation.

The bullfrog conversation seems mostly meant to bring some humor and levity to a chapter that’s essentially about water supply issues, perhaps to make this chapter is a little less dry.

Chapter 18: The Hot Dog

A week after the assault, Chona awakes to the smell of a hot dog. She sees Moshe asleep in a chair beside her, holding her hand. She feels a rush of gratitude and appreciation for Moshe in that moment. Still mentally foggy, she inquires about the hot dog smell again, until she realizes how many people are in the room and that Dodo is not there. A rush of pain hits her. She makes a joke about the hot dog to Bernice before she closes her eyes again and Moshe asks everyone to leave the room.


Instead, the crowd stands outside near the nurses’ station, a clump of Jewish and black people. Rabbi Feldman brings up the water issue to Isaac, saying that he wrote him a letter, but Isaac doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

The conversation is interrupted by the sound of Moshe letting out a loud cry. Addie is outside the room and her shoulders hunch. Chona has passed away.

Part III – The Last Love

Chapter 19: The Lowgods

Paper and Fatty drive to Hemlock Row, a group of shacks in Pottstown, with Big Soap asleep in the back seat. Hemlock Row was a “hamlet of black life that most Chicken Hill blacks avoided”. While the black people in Chicken Hill were hustling and trying to move up and be part of the white man’s world, Hemlock Row where the “Lowgods” resided, and they wanted nothing to do with white people. They kept to themselves, and they were “not to be fooled with”.

Paper says she’ll go in herself, knocks on one of the doors and disappears inside. As Fatty waits, he thinks about how he skipped Chona’s funeral yesterday, trying to wall off the grief. He’s well aware of how her family helped them after his father died. He also thinks of how his sister Bernice, after years of not speaking to Chona, showed loyalty to her in the end and how they had shown loyalty to one another.

Tonight, there here as part of the plan to help Nate and Addie recover Dodo from Pennhurst. Paper needed Fatty to drive her. At first he resists, but Fatty agrees when Paper tells him that he’s the person she can trust. Fatty admits to himself that he’s also not immune to Paper’s beauty and charms.


Inside the shack, Paper meets with one of the Lowgod women, Miggy Fludd. The Lowgod women were beautiful, tall and aloof with dark skin. They also largely worked doing laundry, which is how Paper met Miggy. Paper had once helped Miggy out when Miggy was in a bad relationship. They were both working as launderesses for the same customer and had formed a solid friendship in that time, though they hadn’t seen each other in some time. Miggy gave up doing laundry three years ago for reasons unknown to Paper.

Here in this shack, Miggy is very well-dressed and looks out at a room of people. They ask her questions, and she then closes her eyes, dances and convulses before typing an answer on a card. Miggy has taken up fortune-telling. Afterwards, Paper asks Miggy about her work, and Miggy explains that she gives people hope.

When everyone has had their questions answered for the night, Miggy bids them good-bye, but she asks an old man, Bullis, to stay behind. She says she needs a favor and offers him the coins she collected that night. He considers for a moment and agrees to help, though he rejects the offer of the coins.

Miggy also tells Paper that around here, they still see themselves as “keepers of our fellow man”. Miggy also says that there’s plenty of black people that work at Pennhurst, though most of them live on Hemlock Row instead of Chicken Hill. Miggy has learned that Dodo has been sent to Ward C-1, which is for lower functioning patients. There’s a guy from the Row who works there, but Miggy warns that he’s evil and twisted. Bullis can get them in there to talk to him to maybe convince him to help.

Before Paper leaves, Miggy tells her that the guy waiting for her outside has a good heart and would be a good husband. She also gives Paper a card with the name of the guy in C-1, “Son of Man“.

The Lowgods have a different attitude towards white people than the black people on Chicken Hill. Part of integrating and assimilating into the larger culture is accepting on some level their attitudes and all the structural injustices that come with it.

Meanwhile, the Lowgods reject it completely. They watch out for each other and they reject trying to fit in to the white world, even if that limits their opportunities.

Chapter 20: The Antes House

In Pottstown, the John Antes Historical Society’s Cornet Marching Band plays each Memorial Day. It’s in recognition of John Antes, Pottstown’s greatest composer, though no one outside of the town has heard of him. The celebration starts and ends at The Antes House, the composer’s Revolutionary-era home at the corner of High Street and Union. Gus Plitzka hates this celebration during which the city council members, including it’s chairman Gus, dress in Revolutionary-era costumes and serve as parade marshals.

Today, Gus is concerned about his recent acquisition of Clover Dairy. In closing the deal, he’d had a $1,400 shortfall, which he ended up borrowing from someone a friend of his knew, who turned out to be a mobster named Nig Rosen. Nig had agreed to loan him the money with 5% interest, but soon showed up at his office with two thugs demanding 35% interest — bringing up the total repayment for the loan to be $2,900.

At the Antes House, Doc Roberts is there, and Gus asks him to look at his toe which is bothering him. Gus dislikes Doc, who has airs about his family having been here a long time. Gus also remembers how he’d wanted to put a plaque up celebrating the town’s first Polish business, but Doc had objected. He engineered Doc’s exit from city council as a result of that insult. Similarly, Doc also dislikes Gus and considers him to be “a man without honor”. He also doesn’t understand where the Plitzka family gets their money from. But Doc knows better than to make an enemy out of Gus.

Meanwhile, when the men exit the room, city council’s official janitor, Pia Fabicelli, comes by to clean up along with a friend she’d brought to help, Fioria.

Doc has his own concerns that day. The incident with Chona and interest in it had died away quickly enough and people seemed to believe his version of events. However, he’d also stolen a pendant off her neck that day with words written in a foreign language. Now, he just wants to be rid of “the cursed thing” and return it to someone. When Gus starts asking questions about the grocery store incident, Doc feels uncomfortable.

This is referring back to the mezuzah pendant that Moshe originally has made for Malachi, but he’d suggested that Moshe give it to Chona instead.

Doc changes the subject to talk about a water issue — there was muddy water coming out of the tap in the public bathroom in the Antes House. Gus then gets uncomfortable. The Plitzka farm had made a deal with the city to supply water to the town before the new reservoir was built. And his businesses are getting free water from the city.

The two men get irritated with each other, but they don’t let things escalate, each realizing that the other would make a bad enemy. Finally, Doc suggests that Gus get a special shoe made from Irv and Marv that’ll help ease the pain with his toe while it heals.

Chapter 21: The Marble

Due to there being three sets of attendants, it’s not until five weeks into being at Pennhurst that Dodo sees Son of Man.

At Pennhurst, Dodo and Monkey Pants eventually start communicating through improvised sign language, gestures, expressions and hand signals. It began with Monkey Pants having a blue marble, which reminded him of Chona. Dodo continues asking him about the marble as they develop their system if communication. He pieces together that Monkey Pants got the marble as a gift, but can’t figure out from whom. Monkey Pants gets frustrated occasionally, but they keep going.

They have a breakthrough when they figure out Monkey Pants can use his one working hand to indicate letters of the alphabet. Monkey Pants then tells Dodo about how he got the blue marble from his mother — but then they’re interrupted when Monkey Brain signals “danger”. Dodo them sees a tall black man in an attendant’s uniform, Son of Man. The man takes an interest in Dodo, caressing him and saying that he’s “pretty as a peacock”. When he leaves, Monkey Pants signals that he is “VERY BAD”.

Chapter 22: Without a Song

Moshe closes down the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store with great sadness, with Nate and Addie helping to clear things out. Moshe has been told what happened that day ay the store, but he’s reluctant to make waves by contradicting Doc’s version of events. He’s noted in the past the Nate is especially wary of getting into the crosshairs of the police.

As the finish up the cleaning, Isaac shows up at the store with someone trailing behind him. Then a tiny pair of cowboy pants gets thrown in Moshe’s face and he sees that Malachi is also there.


Malachi indicates that Isaac told him about Chona’s death, and so he took a ship across the Atlantic to come see Moshe. Moshe is delighted to see his old friend again. Moshe is also reminded of how his mother once raised him and Isaac as young kids because Isaac “had no mother”.

Meanwhile, Isaac wants to talk to Nate and Addie. He has questions about what happened with Chona. He offers Nate some money, but Nate rejects it on account how Moche and Chona having taken care of Dodo. Isaac also offers to hire a lawyer to get Dodo out (because “this is a land of laws”), but Nate says he has his own ideas. He also says that “law in this land is what the white man says it is”. He thinks that even if they got him out, it would only be a matter of time before Doc or someone else found a way to put Dodo back in that place. They’d have to keep coming back to Isaac “with our hand out”, asking for help.

While Isaac believes that he can succeed by playing by the rules, Nate’s experiences have taught him that sometimes you can’t if someone is determined to stop you. At the bar with Fatty, he’d said something in the same vein when he said that “Differing weights mean differing measures”. Nate is not a lawless man, but he understands that sometimes a situation calls for something that can’t be worked out within the system, especially because “law in this land is what the white man says it is”. He understands that power can trump laws because power can make laws to be whatever they want them to be.

Isaac also askes about the incident itself and Doc Roberts. He wonders whether Doc Roberts will continue to bother them. Nate says that the only person who saw what happened was Dodo and one other person (Addie) and that other person isn’t telling anyone (other than Moshe). Isaac mentions that he’s going to talk to Bernice, too, before he leaves.

Chapter 23: Bernice’s Bible

Bernice goes to the jook joint to talk to Fatty. The two siblings are not close. They had a dispute over their father’s house when he died, and Fatty also doesn’t approve of how Bernice lives her life. She’s had eight kids with three different men. When they start talking, they poke at each other over old hurts and disappointments. Fatty brings up how Bernice didn’t see or write to him when he was in prison, and Bernice points out that she was busy taking care of their mother who was dying. Bernice gets mad at him for not going to Chona’s funeral.

Bernice tells him what really happened with Reverend Spriggs. He told the black man that the state sent about Dodo, but only because that guy didn’t really care about catching Dodo. He says that every time the state people were coming by, he’d tell Spriggs and Spriggs would call Bernice to tell her to hide Dodo. Doc finding Dodo eventually was an accident.

Bernice finally gets to what she came here to talk about — she wants to know about the water pipes that their father Shad Davis had laid near the public fountain on Chicken Hill. She wants him to locate those pipes. In exchange, she gives him a gift, which is a bible, but when he opens it, he sees there’s a two-page note and $900 in it ($500 with the note and then $400 taped to the second page). He reads the first page and skims most of the second page, but he’s too excited about the money that he tears part of the second page and lets it fell to the ground.

The chapter ends by saying “later on, he was sorry he had been in such a hurry”.

Chapter 24: Duck Boy

Paper assembles Nate, Addie, Rusty, Fatty and Miggy at her table and serves them a sweet potato pie. Miggy, who works as Pennhurst (as well as fortune telling), is dressed in her work outfit. Miggy talks to Nate and references something he did for them in Hemlock Row, and Nate reassures her that no one owes him anything for it (“paid in full”).

Miggy chats little about Hemlock Row, how the two families there are basically the Lowgods and the Loves, but there aren’t many of the Loves left. She eyes Nate when she says this, and Fatty remembers how Dirt had once told him that Nate used to go by “Nate Love”.

Miggy is also here to tell them about her job. She works at Pennhurst as a cleaner. She explains that it consists of 34 buildings spread out over 200 acres. It even has its own railroad, police force, etc. The buildings are kept clean on the outside, but inside terrible things happen. The wards are run by attendants and those attendants have a lot of control over the patients and can restrain them for however long they want. Miggy says that many of the attendants there are evil. The doctors come around once a month or so, but only briefly and it’s generally not the same one.

Miggy recalls an experience with a kid who was 11 or 12 in Pennhurst who couldn’t speak. Instead, he quacked like a duck. He started out in the higher wards, but because he was uncooperative about being there, he was dropped to the lower wards, all the way into C-1. Miggy explains that C-1 is the worst. Miggy says that when he was a smart and funny kid, but she could tell something was wrong. There is one attendant in particular there that was abusing the boy — a man who refers to himself as Son of Man. He’s a good looking guy and a smooth talker, but “twisted” inside. Miggy says the “white folks” like him so he “got the run of things down there”. He runs the other attendants like a gang, and among the patients, everyone is terrified of him, so they’ll do what he says.

Miggy didn’t like what was happening to the boy, but Son of Man threatened her when she tried to warn him off of the boy. Eventually, the boy went missing. Miggy says there’s tunnels all around Pennhurst, which were once used to carry food and supplies or coal in the winter. There’s rumors that the boy left through the tunnels, but the tunnels are complicated, and you’d really have to be familiar with them to get out that way.

Still, Pennhurst has a farm and makes its own food, apart from eggs since they don’t want to raise the chickens it would take to feed 3,000 people. Instead, there’s a farm two miles north that supplies them, and then there’s a guy (the Egg Man) who’s in charge of getting those eggs to all the buildings by 6AM in the morning. She suspects that the guy could be using the tunnels in order to get around. And it’s possible the egg delivery guy could’ve taken the boy on his cart and through the tunnels and to the railroad.

Miggy knows the Egg Man is a Lowgod. Nate asks if the Egg Man brings eggs to Son of Man every morning and how that guy takes his eggs. Miggy says Nate should ask him himself and that Son of Man knows Nate.

Chapter 25: The Deal

Marvin Skrupskelis goes to see Isaac in Philadelphia. Marv wants Isaac’s help in getting Gus Plitzka to force Doc Roberts to confess to what he did to Chona. He knows that Gus is vulnerable with Nig Rosen’s guys on his back and the issue with the water supply. Plitzka is being paid to supply the town with water, but he’s getting free water for his businesses.

Isaac is unconvinced. He says Doc Roberts is not going to confess to attempted rape and that Rosen can deal with Plitzka. Instead, Isaac is focused on saving the shul and dealing with its water issue and getting the boy out of Pennhurst. To do that, he needs Marv’s help in having two people on a train so that when the boy gets out of Pennhurst, there’s someone on the train to help him.

Marv says that’ll be easy. There’s plenty of Jews working the railroads who know what happened to Chona. He says they’ll do it for “free” since he’s happy to make them a pair of shoes. When Isaac is skeptical, Marv tells him “You offer a union man a bribe and he’ll spit in your face. [..] But you offer your trade, your work, they’ll honor that. They honor principle.” Isaac feels shame at the mention of “principle”. He sees Moshe and Chona as people with principle.

Isaac doesn’t explain how any of this deals with the water issue, he just tells Marv to make sure the guys are in the right place at the right time.

Chapter 26: The Job

Fatty offers Big Soap and Rusty $35 each to help him go at night to disconnect and reconnect some water pipes. It’s under a manhole cover. They need Rusty to help with removing the manhole cover and replacing it so it looks like the original. Big Soap notes that they’ll be right out in from of the dairy, and that place will probably have people starting at around 4 AM in the morning. However, Fatty says they’re planning this on Memorial Day weekend so the businesses will be closed. If there’s a watchman, it’ll be Spriggs so Fatty’s not worried.

Paper comes by since Nate wants to move on the Dodo operation tonight and needs Fatty’s help this afternoon moving stuff for the parade. Fatty is already planning on getting this water thing taken care of later tonight so he tries to say no, but Paper asks him to please help.

Fatty shows up at the theater to bring stuff over for the parade, which Moshe lets them store in his basement. Nate muses that Moshe used to “run himself to death to please the white folks round here”.

Addie is nervous about tonight. Nate reassures her that he’s just going to meet up with Bullis and pay off the Egg Man to have him bring Dodo out.

Fatty also tells him about the job he’s doing tonight, which was passed to him via his sister, though he doesn’t know who gave it to her. Nate says that Isaac is the one running this job from the back. Fatty admits that he lost the bottom portion of the note about it. He went back to find it later, but it was wet. He thinks it said something about railroad workers. Fatty admits that there was $500, plus $400 for the railroad workers. Nate demands that Fatty surrender the $400 to give to Dodo for the railroad workers.

Fatty thinks to himself that if it had been anyone else telling him to hand over $400, he would have told them to get lost, but he is intimidated by Nate and does as instructed.

Chapter 27: The Finger

Dodo is awoken by Monkey Pants, but doesn’t want to talk. Dodo had gotten his cast off yesterday and was sent to the cafeteria for lunch, though his legs were still weak. He found the experience upsetting, being around the other patients and seeing the pecking order with the “most able” patients on top. Dodo doesn’t understand why no one has visited him, and he worries that it’s because he should not have attacked that white man.

Dodo is upset and Monkey Pants distracts him with a game as they challenge each other to see how long they can touch their fingers together. They keep playing until late, but then Monkey Pants stops when Son of Man enters the room. He moves their cribbed beds apart. Then, Son of Man flips Dodo over and removes his pants. There’s a sudden burst of pain, but Son of Man is suddenly distracted. He’s covered in feces which Monkey Pants had thrown at him. Monkey Pants also has a severe seizure at that moment, causing the attendants to come in, which soon brings in a doctor.

The doctor notices that the beds have been moved apart and notices that the side of Dodo’s crib bed was unlocked. He does not look impressed with the explanation Son of Man provides. Son of Man leaves. The doctor checks out Monkey Pants before he leaves and notes that Dodo should be moved to a normal bed now that he’s healed.

Meanwhile, Monkey Pants continues to breathe shallow breaths. Later Dodo tells him thank you and they sleep with their fingers touching. The next morning, Dodo notices that Monkey Pants is gone.

Presumably, the intensity of the interaction with Son of Man triggered a severe reaction in Monkey Pants, prompting the seizure that killed him.

Chapter 28: The Last Love

Nate had been a reliable repairman over the years for Anna Morse, so she was happy to oblige when he asked her for a ride to Linfield. Anna lives in Linfield, which is just north of Hemlock Row. Hemlock Row is also a mile away from Pennhurst, where Anna assumes Nate is headed because his nephew is there. She also has a water leak she wants Nate to look at, and he offers to take a look before he heads out.

Nate does various repairs around Anna’s place until 7 o’clock. His appointment with Miggy is not until 11:30 PM. Miggy has agreed to take him to Bullis, who is the Egg Man. Bullis get the eggs at 4AM. Nate is worried about being around the Row, knowing that if people recognize him there could be trouble. Meanwhile, he worries Miggy may have already told people he was coming.


By 2:30, Nate had not shown up at Miggy’s. She asks Bullis to wait, but he says he needs to head to the farm. Bullis goes to pick up the eggs, puts them in a cart pulled by a horse, Titus, and brings them to Pennhurst. As they ride inside, he notices that Titus seems to be struggling.

When he gets to C-1, Son of Man answers the door with a smile, and Bullis knows that something is wrong. Son of Man brings up how Miggy was give him grief yesterday and seemed to be packing a bag for a boy. Son of Man accuses Bullis of planning on using his cart to help the boy escape.

When Bullis talks back to him, Son of Man attacks him, using a packed sock so it wouldn’t leave a mark. Suddenly, Nate crawls out from the cart. Nate thinks about his past and about how he killed his own father after his father had beat his mother with a pipe. After that, Nate had made a living getting paid to beat other people up, but ended up in jail for killing some rapist and thief because of it. He thinks about how Addie took all the “injury and hurt” out of him and replaced it with love. And he worries that if he does this, that’ll be lost.

Then, Nate stabs Son of God in the chest with a kitchen knife.

Chapter 29: Waiting for the Future

(The timeline shifts back to earlier the previous day, to follow the goings-on in town.)

Before the Memorial Day parade, things are hectic. Gus gets accosted by one of Rosen’s men, Henry Lit. Many of the Jewish people who typically participate are not present. And Hal Leopold, the parade director, is upset over the state of everyone’s costumes. Gus and Doc show up in red coats (signifying they’re British) even though the parade marshals are meant to be in blue (signifying they’re American). Gus manages to get a blue coat and offers it to Doc, but Doc — “in a decision that would alter forever his already fraught, twisted, small-town American life” — decides he doesn’t care and chooses to wear the red coat instead. Meanwhile, Fatty and Big Soap double-check things for the water pipe job later that night.

The parade ended up having a late start. Gus goes home directly afterwards, while Doc stays dressed in his red coat to enjoy a beer. By 9 PM, Fatty and Big Soap are hoping to get started soon but there’s still too many people around. They eventually get started but Rusty still hasn’t shown up.

When they get down there, Fatty sees that the pipes have been messed with already. The pipe for Clover Dairy is connected to the city water when Clover is supposed to be getting its water from the old well, which means they are getting a lot of free water from the city. But they leave that alone and get to work doing the job they were paid for. It ends up being harder and more dangerous than either of them expected, but they get it done. The shul’s water supply is now connected to the new reservoir on the hill above.

By the time they’re done, Rusty’s still not there and they need to replace the manhole cover. They hurry to fetch supplies to quickly mix some mortar.


Back at the celebrations, Doc is drunk and talking nonsense. When he brings up Chona, the other men tell him to go home. He stumbles home, but decides to go through the Hill tonight. He notices the mezuzah pendant is still in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Henry Lit has been looking for Gus. He sees a man in a red coat (which is what Gus was wearing earlier that day) near the public faucet and he assumes that it’s Gus, though it’s actually Doc. He knocks him out, hears the crack of a broken jaw and walks away — though he is puzzled to hear a splash when he leaves. (Later, Gus ends up quickly returning the money, though Rosen is confused why Henry thinks the man should have a broken jaw.)

I think we can safely assume that the “splash” was Doc falling into the uncovered manhole.


Later that night, Fatty and Big Soap replace the manhole cover, never seeing that Doc had fallen in while they were gone. They finish up around 1 AM.

Epilogue – The Call Out

Hirshel Koffler, 22, and his brother Yigel, 24, are recent immigrants to America, working brakemen for the Pennsylvania Railroad train called the Tanker Toad. Memorial Day weekend of 1936, they come across a tall black man (Nate) holding a crying boy (Dodo) near Pennhurst. They’d already been instructed on that to do — to drop them off at Berwyn and hand them over to a Pullman Porter.

When they arrive at Berwyn, there are two neatly dressed black men Pullman hats awaiting their arrival. They hand Hirshel and Yigel an envelope and leave. Inside is $40 and an offer from M. Skrup for a free pair of shoes. The four board a passenger train at 6:14 going toward Philadelphia.

Hirshel and Yigel (who had been pulled into the meeting about the bullfrog at the shul) wonder if this job had anything to do with that since there’d been a bunch of Jewish men who’d talked about involving some black people in their affairs. They dismiss the idea, though incidentally the man offering them shoes (Marv) actually was at that meeting.


Upon reaching Philadelphia, Nate would then headed to South Carolina with Dodo, not knowing if he’d see Addie again and not thinking that he deserved her love. Though, she would one day return to him.

Isaac and Moshe eventually start a camp called Camp Chona for disabled children.

Dodo would grow up on a South Carolina farm, paid for with $300 of Isaac’s money. He’d grow up into a man who’d have his own children and teach them useful skills like Nate and Addie had taught him. Dodo takes the name Nate Love II and has three boys and two girls. He passes away on June 22, 1972, which incidentally is the same day Hurricane Agnes wipes out most of Pottstown, and he is surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

Dodo forgets almost all of his time in Pennsylvania but holds on to the memory of Chona and of his friendship with Monkey Pants. When he dies, much to the confusion of those around him, he says “Thank you, Monkey Pants.”

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