When winter comes, Mom and Dad find homelessness more difficult. Dad stays in shelters, and Mom stays with Lori. When Dad gets tuberculosis, he spends six weeks recovering in the hospital, forcing him to get sober. A hospital administrator gets him a maintenance job at an upstate resort, but Mom doesn’t want to go, so Dad goes by himself. He enjoys his time near the woods and stays sober through the summer and fall. Mom convinces him to come back the next winter, and he immediately returns to drinking.
That Christmas, Jeannette buys Dad warm clothes for the winter, and he is offended that she would treat him like a charity case. When Jeannette can’t afford her tuition fees the following semester, Dad goes out and wins $950 and a mink coat in a poker game, the precise amount of money she needs. When she graduates, she does not invite him to the ceremony because she worries he will show up drunk and cause a scene. Dad understands, and still expresses pride in her success.
Mom and Dad move into an abandoned building in the Lower East Side, living with other squatters who have led unruly lives and battled authority. Jeannette observes that her parents have found their home, the place they belong, and wonders if she will ever find the same.
In her search for home, Jeannette begins dating a man named Eric. She likes Eric because he is organized, responsible, and nothing like her father. They quickly move in together, and Jeannette gets a job writing gossip articles for a prestigious news outlet. Dad occasionally calls in tips for her column. Jeannette enjoys going to fancy parties, but she fears people will find out about her parents and her past.
Four years later, when Jeannette and Eric are married, Mom asks Jeannette if Eric would loan her a million dollars. Mom wants the money to buy her brother’s oil-rich property, which is identical to the property Mom inherited. Jeannette realizes that Mom’s property is also worth the same amount of money, and Mom sat on a million-dollar property while the family starved.
At this point, Jeannette is a successful journalist, Lori is a freelance artist, and Brian is a police officer with a wife and a child. Maureen drops out of community college and moves in with Mom and Dad. Maureen behaves erratically, and one day tries to stab Mom. She spends a year in a mental institution and moves to California when she’s released. The family drifts apart, and a year later Dad dies of a heart attack. Jeannette sees Dad once before his death. They reminisce about old times, and Jeannette concludes that he loves her. A year after Dad dies, Jeannette divorces Eric and moves into an apartment on the West Side.