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Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go Summary


Here you will find a Never Let Me Go summary (Kazuo Ishiguro's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Never Let Me Go Summary Overview

Set in an alternative late 20th-century England, a grim reality unfolds where human clones, known as "students," quietly exist to extend the lives of regular people through an established organ donation system. Our narrator, 31-year-old Kathy H., identifies herself as a “carer”—a clone designated to look after fellow clones during their organ donation process, which eventually leads to their demise or "completion." The narrative takes us through Kathy’s recollections of her early years spent at Hailsham, a secluded educational institution for clones, and her friendships with two peers, Ruth and Tommy. The trio's bond takes center stage, with Kathy recounting Ruth's enigmatic nature and Tommy's struggles with his volatile temper and lack of creativity, traits deemed essential by the institution's caretaker figures, known as the "guardians." The narrative oscillates between different stages of Kathy's life, from her childhood to adulthood. It further delves into the trio's transition from Hailsham to a halfway house called the Cottages and their subsequent interactions with "veteran" students from other educational institutions. The narrative captures the nuances of their evolving relationships and encounters, such as a disappointing trip to Norfolk in search of Ruth's possible genetic original, as well as the emotional turmoil they face as they gradually confront the purpose of their existence. Amidst the unfolding events, Tommy and Kathy find solace in one another, indulging in creative expressions, which they believe might determine their eligibility for a rumored donation deferral for couples truly in love. As Kathy transitions to the role of a carer, she encounters Ruth, dealing with a tough first donation. Following Ruth's passing after her second organ donation, Kathy takes over as Tommy's carer. They explore the possibility of a donation deferral by visiting Madame, an influential figure from their Hailsham days. The visit ends in despair, as they learn that no such deferrals exist, followed by the revelation that Hailsham was a failed experiment meant to prove the humanity of clones. A heartbroken Tommy completes after his fourth donation, leaving Kathy alone with her memories and the inevitability of her own completion.

chapter 1

Our narrator, 31-year-old Kathy H., describes her role as a "carer." She shares that she's been in this position for close to 12 years and is due to step down in roughly eight months. Kathy enjoys her job and is proud of the quick recovery of her "donors" after their donations. She has certain perks, such as being able to select her donors, which sometimes causes envy among other carers. She predominantly chooses donors from her old school, Hailsham, which has allowed her to reconnect with her old friends, Ruth and Tommy. Kathy didn't always like dwelling on her school memories, but a troubled donor who showed interest in her Hailsham stories, made her appreciate her schooling more. While travelling nationwide, Kathy frequently stumbles upon reminders of Hailsham, like sports pavilions. She recounts one such afternoon from her school days when she was about twelve, relaxing in the Hailsham pavilion with Ruth and some other girls. This pavilion was a cherished retreat for them to chat without their "guardians" watching. From the window, they see a group of boys deliberately ignoring Tommy for a soccer game, wanting to trigger a meltdown. As the girls discuss Tommy's lack of creativity in art, Kathy fears his favorite blue polo shirt will get spoiled in the mud. Kathy goes to appease Tommy, but he accidentally hits her and dismisses her concern about his shirt, only to regret it later. A frustrated Kathy returns to her friends, conscious of the other students' gaze.

chapter 2

Kathy recollects her youth at Hailsham, particularly focusing on her relationship with Tommy. Shortly after a public outburst, Tommy apologizes to her in a congested staircase, making her feel uncomfortable. Despite his apology, the boys maintain their jesting, causing more tantrums from Tommy. During a nighttime conversation in the girls' dorm, Ruth suggests that Tommy should enhance his creativity to stop the mockery. She points out Tommy's lack of participation in the Exchanges, the school's quarterly art event where students exchange their works. Breaking from her memories, Kathy clarifies that creative talents were highly respected at Hailsham, a culture that was nurtured by the Exchanges. She reminisces how Tommy's artistic struggles began when he intentionally drew a childish elephant in the art class to amuse everyone. However, Miss Geraldine, a compassionate guardian, commended him, leading to more ridicule from his classmates. Tommy tried to better his art initially but soon began accentuating the immaturity of his drawings to mask his inadequacy, often bursting into tantrums when teased. Kathy's recollections then drift to the aftermath of the football incident. Tommy ceases to react to the continuous pranks and even starts joining his classmates in their games. Confused, Kathy confronts Tommy about his changed behavior, who reveals Miss Lucy's advice that creativity wasn't a necessity for him. Disbelieving, Kathy dismisses this as a jest and walks away in annoyance. Tommy, however, insists on his truth and asks her to meet him by the pond after lunch.

chapter 3

At the pond, Kathy encounters Tommy who shares his past interaction with Miss Lucy. Two months ago, Tommy helped Miss Lucy move some items, during which she reassured him about his lack of creativity. She expressed anger, not towards Tommy, but at the undue pressure put on him by guardians and peers. Her conversation provided Tommy with a new perspective, which he asks Kathy to keep confidential. He also reveals Miss Lucy's concern about the students being under-educated on donations. This leads Kathy and Tommy to contemplate a potential link between creativity and donations, which may shed light on Madame's Gallery. The narrative then shifts to Kathy's description of Madame, who selectively takes exceptional student artworks during her sporadic visits to Hailsham. It is a commonly held belief that these artworks end up in the elusive "Madame's Gallery", a topic that is strictly avoided by the guardians. Madame maintains an unperturbed and distant stance during her visits. As eight-year-olds, Ruth and Kathy hypothesized Madame's fear of students, a theory they later proved by deliberately passing Madame in a group. Madame's visible discomfort affirmed their theory and led Kathy to understand that people outside Hailsham were apprehensive about engaging with students like her.

chapter 4

As Kathy nears the end of her caregiving career, she finds herself yearning to untangle her past, particularly the memories of her school days at Hailsham and its impact on her relationships with Tommy and Ruth. She revisits the time when Madam would visit, leading to the "tokens controversy." Kathy explains how students traded their artwork for tokens to get others' pieces, creating personal collections. However, when Madame collected their art without offering tokens, a sense of injustice stirred among the students, leading to protests. Miss Lucy, when asked about Madame's interest in their art, left the question unanswered, claiming they wouldn't comprehend the reasons. Kathy further details Hailsham's monthly Sales, where items from the "outside" could be bought using tokens. The strict head guardian, Miss Emily, had to regularly admonish the students for their unruly behavior on Sale days. Kathy remembers her strange speeches and her intellect sometimes slipping into a far-off daze. Kathy also revisits her earliest interactions with Ruth. She remembers a young Ruth having a heated argument with two girls in a sandpit and later inviting Kathy to play pretend horses. However, the fun ended abruptly when Ruth asked Kathy about her favorite guardian. Upon hearing Kathy's answer - Miss Geraldine, Ruth suggested Kathy join the "secret guards" for Miss Geraldine.

chapter 5

Kathy reflects on her time with the secret guard, a group of pupils committed to safeguarding Miss Geraldine from a presumed abduction scheme. Under Ruth's leadership, the group gathers "evidence" tying various teachers and students to this scheme. The plot's details remain obscure, but the guard thinks it's tied to the woods behind Hailsham. The woods frighten the students, as they share scary tales of past students who perished there, including stories of a dismembered boy and a girl who starved. Kathy and her friends once "punished" their peer, Marge K., for shaming them by compelling her to gaze at the night-time woods through a window. Kathy reminds herself that all secret guard members supported the "fantasy" of the scheme even after they outgrew it. She shares a story about a chess game with Ruth as an example. Kathy gets a chess set at a sale, hoping Ruth, who always insinuates she knows the game, can teach her. When Ruth fails to teach Kathy, it becomes clear she doesn't know how to play, causing Kathy to leave in frustration. The following day, Ruth dismisses Kathy from the secret guard, but Kathy still defends it when another student labels it as juvenile. Kathy's recollections jump forward about three years. Ruth arrives in class flaunting a new pencil case with polka dots, implying it's a gift from Miss Geraldine. Ruth often suggests she's Miss Geraldine's favorite, but Kathy can never ascertain the truth. The pencil case irks Kathy, as she suspects Ruth bought it at a recent sale. To confirm her suspicion, Kathy lies to Ruth about seeing the sales register. Ruth's distress at this revelation backs up Kathy's suspicion. However, Kathy instantly regrets her deception and tries to reassure Ruth that she didn't see much in the register, but Ruth walks away.

chapter 6

Following the pencil case incident, Kathy remedies her actions by suggesting Ruth is Miss Geraldine's favorite. When a fellow student questions the origin of Ruth's pencil case, Kathy comes to her aid by referencing it as an enigma. Ruth appreciates this and looks for an opportunity to reciprocate. This chance comes when Kathy misplaces her beloved Judy Bridgewater tape, 'Songs After Dark.' The loss of this tape evokes additional memories, including a trip to Norfolk where she unearthed a duplicate of the lost cassette with Tommy's help. Norfolk is reminiscent of Miss Emily, who used calendar pictures to educate the students about English provinces. However, Norfolk, described by Miss Emily as “a lost corner” was not represented. This term, also used for Hailsham's lost-and-found, led students to imagine that all misplaced items in England ended up in Norfolk - a belief Kathy had as a child, which later morphed into a humorous notion. Ruth acknowledged the solace she derived from the Norfolk belief during a conversation at her recovery center, causing Kathy to yearn for a similar comfort. Returning to her lost tape story, Kathy describes the cassette cover featuring Judy Bridgewater with a cigarette, an item she keeps hidden as Hailsham students are strictly prohibited from smoking for health reasons. Kathy has a favorite song on the tape, “Never Let Me Go.” She imagines the song is about a barren woman who miraculously gives birth. Kathy fantasizes about the woman singing joyfully to her baby, yet fearing its loss. One day, as Kathy is swaying to the song with a pillow, she notices Madame watching her tearfully before abruptly leaving. Kathy refrains from discussing this incident until much later with Tommy, who hypothesizes that Madame's tears were due to knowing students can't have children. Two months after the Madame incident, Kathy's tape vanishes. Ruth assists in the search and eventually offers Kathy a new tape, 'Twenty Classic Dance Tunes.' As an adult, Kathy still has this tape, considering it one of her most cherished belongings.

chapter 7

Kathy reflects on her teen years at Hailsham, which were significantly more serious than her earlier years. She sees Tommy’s admission at the pond as a significant turning point. Miss Lucy, one of the teachers, starts to act oddly. Once, during a rainstorm, she and some students took refuge in the sports pavilion. When she hears two boys fantasizing about being actors, she becomes upset and tells them their lives have already been charted out, as they will ultimately donate their vital organs. She criticizes the other guardians for not being candid with the students about their destinies. Kathy talks about how the guardians often combined their discussions about organ donations and sex, which she speculates was to distract the students from the harsh reality of donations. She remembers Miss Emily warning them about the outside world's view on sex, as non-Hailsham students can procreate. While the younger students shied away from talks about donations, Kathy and her peers started to mockingly discuss them. There was even a joke among them about "unzipping" themselves to give up their organs, which was sparked by a prank played on Tommy about his elbow. Despite this, following Miss Lucy’s frank talk in the pavilion, the students didn't discuss donations again.

chapter 8

In her final summer at Hailsham, Kathy stumbles upon Miss Lucy in a classroom, furiously crossing out her written work. Startled, Kathy withdraws, feeling guilty and puzzled. Later in her life, Kathy reveals Tommy too had an odd encounter with Miss Lucy that season. She doesn't detail the event but hints that Tommy's old explosive nature had resurfaced around then. Kathy remembers showing Tommy a bespoke Hailsham calendar she had recently bought at an Exchange, to which Tommy reacted indifferently. Kathy initially attributed Tommy's unusual behaviour to his split with Ruth, whom he had been seeing for half a year. Kathy then mulls over the confusing messages from the guardians regarding sex. They promoted a sex-positive attitude but discouraged students from engaging in sexual activities within the school premises. This led to various student theories on the guardians' stance on sex, with Kathy favoring Ruth's hypothesis. Ruth believed that the guardians aimed to ready students for sex in the real world while avoiding dealing with student sexual activity at school. Kathy reminisces feeling excluded as several of her peers bragged about having sex. Despite her skepticism towards these claims, she was certain about Ruth and Tommy's sexual relationship. Kathy confesses her own desire for sexual experience, as a preparation for adult life. She planned to approach her classmate, Harry C., but changed her mind after Ruth and Tommy's separation.

chapter 9

Kathy talks about the delay in her intentions to be intimate with Harry C. Following the end of Ruth and Tommy's relationship, her peers implied that Kathy was the next in line to date Tommy. Kathy spotted Harry during her visit to a donation center years later, although she doubts he recognized her. Her focus shifts back to Hailsham, with Ruth requesting her guidance in mending things with Tommy. Ruth believes Tommy values Kathy's input and might heed her counsel. Though Kathy fears Ruth might cause Tommy further pain, Ruth assures her she's through with her manipulative tactics. Ruth highlights their impending adulthood and departure from Hailsham. Kathy consents to discuss things with Tommy. Tommy expresses to Kathy that his distress isn't rooted in Ruth, but in a recent talk with Miss Lucy. Earlier that summer, Miss Lucy confessed to wrongly encouraging his lack of creativity. She suggested the significance of Madame's Gallery was way beyond her earlier explanation, hinting their art pieces were "evidence". She encouraged Tommy to resume creating art. While Kathy is intrigued, she concentrates on persuading Tommy to reconcile with Ruth. Tommy insists he needs time before plunging back into the relationship, particularly with their upcoming departure from Hailsham. The next day, news of Miss Lucy's departure from Hailsham circulates. That same evening, Tommy and Ruth decide to give their relationship another try.

chapter 10

Kathy, along with Ruth, Tommy, and five Hailsham classmates, join the Cottages, where they encounter the curt caretaker Keffers and older students known as the "veterans." The Cottages, previously disused farm buildings, serve as their new living quarters. The Hailsham group gradually adapts to their new surroundings, engaging in debates about literature, philosophy, and art with the veterans while completing their last Hailsham essay assignments. Over time, these assignments lose their urgency. Kathy observes that many veteran couples, who unknowingly imitate TV show characters, and sees Ruth start to mimic them, even adopting a goodbye gesture of a light arm tap on Tommy. One day, Kathy is irritated by Ruth narrating the storyline of Daniel Deronda while Kathy is engrossed in the book. Kathy questions Ruth about her newly adopted arm tap gesture. Ruth feigns ignorance of the gesture's origin and Kathy points out that it is mimicked from television. Ruth dismisses the critique, but Kathy detects her anger. Ruth then accuses Kathy of being envious of her new veteran friends and of only mingling with the Hailsham students. When Kathy criticizes Ruth for not caring for Tommy, Ruth gives a vague acknowledgment of Kathy's friendships with "some of the veterans." The conversation ends with Kathy storming off.

chapter 11

Kathy shares how Ruth's remarks regarding the veterans unsettled her. At the Cottages, Kathy and Ruth have frequents disagreements, but they also share confidences like never before in Kathy's room. Kathy presumes there's a tacit agreement that their shared secrets will not be used against each other. Ruth's statement about Kathy's sexual encounters with some veterans, which Kathy had confessed to Ruth in privacy, had breached this agreement. Kathy clarifies that at the Cottages, views on relationships and sex were more relaxed than at Hailsham. The veterans kept sexual encounters and one-night stands light-hearted. Kathy's confession about her "one-nighters" and her strong sexual impulses to Ruth was met with understanding, but Ruth felt Kathy's urges were out of the ordinary, claiming not to have such impulses herself. Kathy concedes that her arm slapping remark might have instigated Ruth's comment about her one-nighters. Ruth, who was always trying to win the veterans' approval, felt undermined by Kathy's arm slapping comment, breaching their silent pact of mutual support. Kathy recalls a discussion at Ruth's recovery facility, where Ruth lamented over discarding her collection of Hailsham trinkets at the Cottages. Kathy held on to her collection, however, Ruth had asked Keffers to give her collection to charity, as the veterans didn't have collections. Kathy reminisces about life at Cottages. The veterans, some of whom were training to be carers, never discussed their training or fellow students who had permanently left, but would only talk about them in relation to their abandoned belongings. Kathy once found pornographic magazines left by a veteran, Steve. She took them to the boiler room to look at the models' faces. When Tommy stumbled upon her there, he was taken aback. Kathy dismissed it as mere amusement, but Tommy wasn't entirely convinced by her explanation.

chapter 12

Chrissie and Rodney, a long-term pair, travel to Norfolk as winter ends. They come back with a story of Rodney spotting Ruth’s "possible" in an office. Kathy interrupts to clarify the concept of "possibles," a theory among the clones that they each have a living model in the outside world. The clones' opinions vary on the age of their models, with some believing they would be parent-age while others think they could be any age. Many hope that seeing their model would provide insight into their identities and futures. Kathy adds that sightings usually come in bursts and often lack strong evidence. Despite Chrissie's friendliness, Kathy senses an underlying agenda due to her curiosity about Hailsham. Rodney, likewise friendly, defers to Chrissie’s lead. Kathy is skeptical of Rodney's claim of spotting the "possible" living Ruth’s "dream future." Prior, Kathy and Ruth had found a magazine with a picture of an office. Ruth later began describing this image as her dream future of working in an office. The veteran clones latched on to this idea, as they believed Hailsham students had special opportunities. This led to Chrissie and Rodney inviting Ruth to Norfolk to find her "possible." Kathy and Tommy also decide to join, much to Ruth's apparent disapproval.

chapter 13

Rodney's initial plan to borrow a car for their Norfolk journey fails at the last minute, causing irritation for Ruth, who had until this point, treated it all as a casual affair. Luckily, Rodney secures another vehicle and their expedition goes ahead. Throughout the journey, Ruth strategically positions herself between Kathy and Tommy, constantly engaging with Rodney and Chrissie, leaving Kathy and Tommy with no chance to converse. When Kathy suggests a change in seating, Ruth reacts angrily and remains silent for the rest of the drive. Their mood lifts when they reach Norfolk and stop at a café for a meal. Instead of discussing her “possible,” Ruth, Rodney, and Chrissie propose a visit to their friend Martin, a carer residing in Norfolk. Kathy reminds them that visiting carers is not allowed, triggering a bitter remark from Ruth. Tommy inquires about Ruth's possible, but Rodney appears reluctant to discuss it. Chrissie then speculates about Ruth’s future work in Norfolk, and recounts a rumor about a former Hailsham student's employment at a clothing store. She recalls another rumor Ruth mentioned about a Hailsham alumnus working as a park ranger. Tommy is puzzled and denies knowledge of these rumors, but Kathy feigns awareness. Chrissie mentions yet another rumor about Hailsham couples deferring their donations if they're in love and inquires about the procedure. Ruth admits knowing about deferrals but is uncertain about how to apply. Tommy confesses his ignorance about the entire matter. Ruth attempts to justify Tommy's lack of knowledge blaming it on his exclusion at Hailsham, before expressing her desire to visit her possible.

chapter 14

Rodney guides the group to the office while Chrissie insists on a detour to Woolworth’s to purchase birthday cards. Kathy eavesdrops on Ruth and Chrissie contemplating deferrals, with Ruth hinting at their unique Hailsham privileges. Ruth is upset at Kathy's intrusion. At the office, Rodney points to an older woman, who they all agree could be Ruth's possible. Their hasty exit is triggered when they attract attention. Ruth suggests they return later, but then they spot Ruth's possible exiting the office. They trail her to an art gallery, The Portway Studio, and watch her interact with the gallery manager. Up close, the woman seems less like Ruth than anticipated. The group doesn't pursue the woman further. When questioned if they're art students, Kathy clarifies their curiosity. The manager's discussion about the art pieces reminds Kathy of their Hailsham teachers. Upon exiting, they unanimously agree that the woman isn't Ruth's model. Kathy sympathises with an emotional Ruth, blaming Chrissie and Rodney. Their efforts to cheer Ruth up are met with relief, as they now lack more proof of Hailsham's uniqueness. Kathy and Tommy also try to lighten the mood but their support is unacknowledged by Ruth. Ruth angrily claims that their models are low-lifes and criminals, dismissing Tommy's effort to agree with her. Rodney and Chrissie suggest visiting their carer friend Martin, a proposal Kathy denies. Ruth departs with the veterans, leaving Tommy behind with Kathy.

chapter 15

Tommy reveals to Kathy that he tried finding her misplaced tape in Woolworth’s and at Hailsham, prompted by Ruth. They decide to look for the tape in Norfolk, combing through several thrift stores. Eventually, they find the tape and Tommy pays for it. Walking back, Tommy shares his belief that deferrals are linked to Madame’s Gallery, recalling Miss Emily's statement about art unveiling the soul. He theorizes that the gallery is a device to assess the authenticity of love between couples applying for deferrals. Tommy admits that his art never made it to Madame’s Gallery, but discloses he has resumed drawing, creating miniature imaginary animals inspired by a children's book from the Cottages. He hasn't shared his animal creations or his deferral theory with Ruth. After returning to their car, he shares another theory with Kathy, instigated by Ruth's remarks about their models. He suggests Kathy peruses adult magazines in search of her possibles. Kathy confirms her strong sexual desires led her to wonder if her model might be found in these magazines. Though emotional, she doesn't cry. Tommy reassures her that her sexual feelings are normal, confessing he experiences the same. The rest of their friends rejoin them soon after, with Ruth in a more pleasant mood, actively including Kathy and Tommy in the ride back conversation. Kathy opts not to disclose that they found her lost tape.

chapter 16

Upon returning to the Cottages, Ruth dismisses any discussion about their Norfolk journey. Even Kathy doesn't reveal about her recovered tape. In the ensuing spring, many veterans leave for carer training. As a result, deferral talk reignites among those who remain, excluding Chrissie and Rodney. The repercussion of the Norfolk trip also impacts Kathy and Tommy, who cease any further conversations about Madame's Gallery. One day, Kathy stumbles upon Tommy creating intricate sketches of fictional creatures in a barn. He discloses that only Ruth has seen these drawings before. Kathy, initially unsure of the peculiar drawings, becomes increasingly fascinated with time. She supports Tommy and advises him to share his talent. Towards summer's end, new students arrive at the Cottages. None of them are from Hailsham, leading Kathy to feel a growing distance from her Hailsham past and friends. The already strained relationship with Ruth worsens as she consistently pretends to forget their shared past. Kathy reminisces a night spent jesting with Ruth about her romantic escapades with a veteran, Lenny. Upon spotting Kathy's Judy Bridgewater tape, Ruth appears indifferent when Kathy reveals the Norfolk discovery. Kathy later ponders if Ruth knew about the tape beforehand and was merely waiting for the right time to discuss it. Their conversation shifts to Tommy's drawings, and Ruth nudges Kathy to admit they are amusing. A few days later, Kathy overhears Ruth and Tommy's discussion about the Gallery and Tommy's consideration of submitting his work. However, Ruth discourages him from embarrassing himself and insists that she and Kathy find the drawings humorous. Kathy, taken aback, neither accepts nor denies, but simply leaves, immediately regretting her silence and dismissal of Tommy's efforts.

chapter 17

Despite attempting to maintain a usual demeanor with Ruth and Tommy, Kathy finds their relationship growing more strained. She decides to address the issue with Ruth at an old bus stop near the Cottages, where Kathy highlights Ruth's behavior as a source of distress for Tommy. Ruth concedes that Kathy's observation is accurate, but also insinuates that Kathy might want to be with Tommy should he and Ruth separate. Ruth asserts that Tommy, despite respecting Kathy, will not be romantically inclined towards her due to her past relationships. Their conversation shifts to recollecting their Hailsham days, but Ruth frustrates Kathy by once again feigning forgetfulness about their shared past. Soon after this, Kathy initiates her transition into a carer role by filling out the necessary paperwork. She maintains a cautious distance from Ruth and Tommy until her departure.

chapter 18

Despite the demanding and solitary nature of her job, Kathy handles stress better than most of her fellow carers. She drives long hours to visit her donors in hospitals and care facilities. One day, she unexpectedly meets Laura, a fellow Hailsham alumnus and carer, who appears to be overwhelmed. Laura mentions a rumor about Ruth having a difficult first donation and inquires why Kathy hasn't offered to be Ruth's carer. Kathy admits their last encounter was unpleasant. They reminisce about their shared past at Hailsham, which has recently shut down. Kathy's thoughts wander back to when she first heard about Hailsham's closure and pondered its impact on her and her classmates. She likens the school's closure to a clown releasing balloons she had seen on a dreary street, symbolizing their severed ties. After her conversation with Laura, Kathy chooses to care for Ruth, who is weak from her first donation. Their initial meeting goes smoothly, but they avoid discussing their falling out at the Cottages. Kathy soon discerns a mistrust in Ruth, leading to increasingly awkward and silent visits that nearly push Kathy to abandon her commitment. A shift occurs when rumors of an abandoned fishing boat near the Kingsfield care center pique Ruth's interest. Kathy agrees to take her to see it and proposes they also visit Tommy at the same center. Ruth confesses she'd like to see Tommy, whom she hasn't seen since their time at the Cottages. Kathy reaches out to Tommy's carer to arrange a visit for the following week.

chapter 19

Kathy takes Ruth to the Kingsfield recuperation facility. Ruth becomes anxious when Tommy nears their car, but Kathy greets him warmly, and he gets in the back seat with Ruth. During the drive, Ruth discusses another person that donated at her center in a somewhat disjointed manner. Kathy playfully interrupts Ruth, making Tommy chuckle, and Ruth stays silent for the rest of the trip. Upon arrival, they trek through the woods to locate a boat, which exhausts Ruth, especially when they need to cross a barbed wire fence. Kathy and Tommy assist her, and Kathy later contemplates that they might have been too harsh on her in the car. They find the boat, but they can't get too close due to the marsh. The boat is dilapidated but Ruth admires its beauty. Tommy notes that he imagines Hailsham resembles the marsh now. Ruth talks about a dream she had about being at Hailsham during a flood with debris floating in the water. She also mentions Chrissie, who passed away after her second donation. Kathy updates them that Rodney, who she saw later, seems to be coping well. Ruth gets upset with Kathy, stating she can't understand Rodney's feelings as she's still a carer. Tommy confesses he was a terrible carer, while Ruth shares that after five years of caring, she felt ready to be a donor. On their ride back, Kathy is disheartened as she and Tommy had minimal interaction during the day. Kathy stops to show Ruth a billboard of an open-plan office, reminding her of a magazine ad they saw near the Cottages. Tommy remembers their Norfolk trip and agrees that Ruth could have pursued a career in an office. Ruth argues that there was no opportunity to explore that. Out of the blue, Ruth apologizes to Kathy for criticizing her sexual desires and admits to possessing the same feelings. She also confesses to sleeping with veterans at the Cottages and keeping Kathy and Tommy apart. She encourages them to request a deferral. Kathy breaks down, arguing it's too late. Ruth hands Tommy Madame's address for their deferral and they drop him off at his recovery center. On their way back, they avoid discussing the recent revelations. Following their trip, Kathy and Ruth spend tranquil days together at Ruth’s center, reminiscing about the past. They never directly discuss their conversation from the roadside, but Ruth periodically persuades Kathy to become Tommy’s carer. Ruth passes away after her second donation, and as she's dying, Kathy pledges to become Tommy's carer. They share a brief eye contact, and Kathy believes Ruth understood her commitment.

chapter 20

A year following their boat trip, Kathy starts caring for Tommy post his third organ donation at the Kingsfield center. Their time is filled with quiet conversations and reading, and they become lovers. There's joy, but also regret for their delay in reaching this point. Kathy notices Tommy's continued drawing of imaginary animals. Far from being secretive about his artwork, he seeks her perspective on it. Kathy is content, noting that Tommy has resolved the tension about his drawings from their time at the Cottages. She interprets the drawings as a sign of him still intending to request a deferral. However, she perceives his recent drawings as more strained, as if replicated, and has a recurring feeling of them being too late. As the summer draws to a close, they anticipate the call for his fourth donation. Kathy reveals to Tommy her surveillance of Madame's house, following Ruth's directions. They agree to confront Madame the following week. Speculating on a possible deferral, Tommy ponders over their future and the drawings he would choose to present.

chapter 21

After a day filled with medical exams, Kathy and Tommy spot Madame in a town and decide to follow her home. They catch up to her at her front door, where Kathy grabs her attention. Madame's attitude is initially frosty, but she softens slightly upon learning they are from Hailsham. Tommy mentions bringing some pieces for her gallery and requests a conversation. Madame lets them in, requesting they wait in the front room while she attends to something upstairs. During their wait, Tommy identifies a familiar photograph of Hailsham. Overheard voices upstairs hint at another person in the house. Upon Madame's return, they request information about deferrals. Kathy mentions their love for each other, and Tommy hints at their understanding of Madame's gallery's purpose. Madame seems interested but keeps shifting focus to Kathy, asking if she's overstepping boundaries. Tommy starts to express his theory about the artwork representing their souls, which shocks Madame. He confesses he never contributed to the Hailsham gallery but offers to show his own sketches. Madame is moved to the point of tears, referring to them as "poor creatures". Madame continues her cryptic line of questioning towards Kathy, who finally realizes someone else is in the room. Madame then introduces the unexpected guest - Miss Emily, who is in a wheelchair. Madame suggests that Miss Emily should interact with them.

chapter 22

Miss Emily welcomes Tommy and Kathy, recalling them from their Hailsham days. She mentions she has limited time as she is waiting for movers to collect a bedside cabinet she's selling. Despite her illness and temporary need for a wheelchair, she remains optimistic. She also reveals that Madame, or Marie-Claude, is disenchanted with how their Hailsham initiative concluded. Contrarily, Miss Emily is content with their achievements. She acknowledges the rumors of deferrals but firmly denies their existence. She also discloses that Hailsham was part of a broader movement to humanize the organ donation program, countering the popular notion that clones were subhuman and their organs merely commodities. Hailsham was an oasis of kindness amidst harsh conditions, showcasing the students' artwork to demonstrate their humanity. She tells them that Hailsham lost public support over time, largely due to the Morningdale scandal involving a controversial geneticist. Following the withdrawal of all sponsorship, Hailsham was shut down, with state-run "homes" being the sole option to raise students. Despite everything, Miss Emily and Madame still cherish a collection of student art pieces and their memories of Hailsham. She reminds Kathy and Tommy of their fortunate upbringing at Hailsham. Tommy questions her about Miss Lucy’s exit from Hailsham, and Miss Emily reveals that, unlike the other guardians, Miss Lucy desired to enlighten the students about their impending futures. Kathy discloses to Miss Emily about Madame’s fear of the students. In turn, Miss Emily confesses her initial disgust towards them, which she managed to overcome. She then leaves to attend to the movers. As Kathy and Tommy plan to depart, Kathy queries Madame about a past encounter at the Hailsham dormitory, specifically regarding the song “Never Let Me Go.” Madame confesses of crying, envisioning an impending bleak world and seeing in Kathy a child clinging to the past, begging it to stay. On their way home, Tommy concedes that Miss Lucy was right to want transparency, prompting him to ask Kathy to stop the car. He ventures into the woods, and Kathy hears him screaming. She finds him in a muddy field, venting his anger. She comforts him until he is calm. Back in the car, Kathy ponders if Tommy's childhood tantrums were indicative of his subconscious awareness of their grim reality.

chapter 23

After their meeting with Madame, Tommy ceases to draw his animals when Kathy is around. He frequently shifts their conversations away from Hailsham to his experiences as a donor, something Kathy finds hurtful as she feels excluded. When his fourth donation is scheduled, Tommy requests a different carer, claiming that Ruth had different intentions for them and wouldn't have wanted Kathy to be his end-of-life carer. Initially, Kathy is upset but eventually she agrees. During their remaining weeks together, Kathy and Tommy have a discussion about Ruth. Tommy suggests that unlike them who sought "to find things out," Ruth always yearned "to believe in things." He also likens their relationship to two individuals struggling to maintain their grip on one another in a river, but having to inevitably let go. Despite their lifelong love, Tommy believes they can't be together perpetually. After sharing a farewell kiss, Kathy departs. Reflecting on this, Kathy is adamant that her memories remain intact despite losing all her loved ones. She recalls driving back to Norfolk after Tommy's completion and envisaging Tommy appearing on the horizon while she stood looking at a field behind a barbed wire fence. Yet, she cuts off the fantasy just as Tommy waves at her from the distance. Kathy admits to shedding tears, but insists it was not uncontrollable crying. She then gets back into the car and drives off.

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