Just before entering the fifth grade, Dave decided that for him, there was no God. He did not believe that any God would allow him to live in this way, and he was sure that he was alone. The starvation and abuse continued, and at one point he was so desperate that he scraped out leftover food that his mother had placed in their dog's dish. He longed for his mother to die, but most of all, he wanted her to feel the intense pain and loneliness that he felt all those years.
He also hated his father, who knew how terrible Dave's life was but did not have the courage to save him from it. He kept calling his mother "The Bitch," and remarked that whenever she and his father had arguments, she would involve him, and he would have to take her side. This made his father lose faith in him, which made Dave hate him even more. He no longer felt like his brothers were really his brothers, because they took his mother’s side and eventually started hitting him too.
Most of all, though, Dave hated himself. He thought that everything that was happening to him was his fault because he had let it go on for so long. He hated himself so much that he wished he were dead. Even school no longer had the appeal it once did for him: he struggled with his schoolwork, and his classmates–especially Clifford–beat him up. Another classmate, Aggie, was even worse than that, always coming up with new ways to tell him he should drop dead. This got so bad that during a field trip to a San Francisco clipper ship, she told him he should jump off the side and commit suicide.
Dave’s homeroom teacher, Mr. Ziegler, at first did not know why Dave was such a problem child, but when the school nurse told him, he made a special effort to treat him like a normal kid. This made a positive impact on Dave, particularly when his suggestion was chosen as the name for the newspaper. My. Zeigler sent a note of praise home with Dave, but Dave's mom yelled at Dave for it, reminding him that there nothing he could do could impress her and that he was a nobody, an it, and she wished he were dead.
He started to purposefully irritate her, hoping she would actually kill him. He disobeyed her in public, which resulted in terrible punishments afterward, including the bathroom chemical punishment. The only thing that kept Dave sane was his baby brother Kevin, who was a sweet baby whom he loved. He was so happy that Kevin had turned out normal, because when his mother was pregnant, one day she had put Dave in a headlock and he had kicked her in the stomach. She told him that the baby would have a permanent defect because of it, and so he had been worried.
Eventually, his mother started to alienate everyone else in her family, not just Dave. She pushed away her own mother, Dave's grandmother, and the fighting between them was bad for Dave because his mother took out her frustrations on him. She fought all the time with his father as well, and one day his father came home drunk and packed everything up. He apologized to Dave and told him he could not take it anymore. They dropped his father off at a motel, since he and Dave’s mother were separating, and Dave prayed on the way back home.
The epilogue flashes forward. Dave is standing at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, thinking about how his dark past is behind him. He has tried to let go of his past, and has found that the challenges of his past have made him stronger, given him a new appreciation for life. When he got older, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, which gave him a sense of pride and belonging. In the ocean, he watches a piece of driftwood be taken in and out by the sea, struggling to stay ashore, and it reminds him of his former life.
He turns away from the ocean and drives to the Russian River vacation home where he spent happy times in his childhood. It is revealed that he is with his own son, Stephen. As they gaze out at the river, his son tells him he loves him, and Dave says the same thing in response. Stephen says the Russian River is his favorite place in the world, and Dave agrees.
This chapter is the first time that Dave has thought seriously about God in this memoir, despite the horrible things he has gone through. It makes sense for him to look to God at this point in time, once he realizes that his father is not the superhero he hoped he would be—however, it also makes sense that he feels that God has abandoned him, because of the terrible things he has gone through. This chapter reiterates that Dave blames himself for the terrible things he has gone through, because he has not tried to make these things stop—in his mind, he is at fault, not some external power.
For a while now, Dave has been calling his mother "The Bitch." This mirrors her calling him "The Boy" and "it." Just like she did to him, he is stripping her of her identity as his mother, because he no longer feels any sort of familial connection to her after everything she has put him through. She is no longer worthy of her name or of being called "Mother," and he will not give her the satisfaction of using these titles.
It is easy to forget that while he has been forced to grow up far too quickly, Dave is still a young child, with the same wishes and needs that any other child would have. Just like other children, Dave longs for praise and recognition—even more so, because he has not received it in so long. This is why he latches on to Mr. Ziegler's praise and support. Despite everything, he is also like any other child in that he still wants to please his mother and make her proud, which is why it hurts him so much that nothing he accomplishes makes her treat him any differently.
Though he is only discussed for a few paragraphs, Dave's baby brother Kevin is an important character because he is one small glimmer of light and love in Dave's family. Dave has lost faith in every one of his family members—his mother, his brothers, even his father, who was once his idea of a hero. Kevin has not been touched by their mother's destructive hand of control yet, and as such, he is still innocent and pure. For this reason, Dave loves him, and his love for Kevin—the first time in a long time he has felt any sort of familial love—is what keeps him going.
The ending of Chapter 7 seems abrupt and upsetting, finishing at the peak of Dave's abuse after his father has given up and left him for good. This, however, is where Chapter 1 fits in chronologically, when Dave goes to school one day and the nurse and the principal finally decide to do something and call the police. Despite the dejecting finish to Chapter 7, readers can remember the freedom that Dave was granted at the end of Chapter 1 and feel hope, knowing that Dave was able to escape the prison his mother had created for him. The epilogue confirms that he has moved past this period of his life and changed for the better. The epilogue takes place when he is an adult, and Dave remarks upon the numerous lessons he has learned and the strength he has gained as a result of his experiences.
The most important part of the epilogue is the presence of Dave's own son, Stephen. Stephen is Dave's chance at redemption; even though Dave did not get to grow up with the love of a parent, he can provide that love for his own son, filling an essential gap in his own heart. Stephen is an opportunity to provide everything his mother and his father did not: support, courage, love, care, and praise, things necessary for a child's well being. In the epilogue, Dave returns to the Russian River with his son. This allows him to heal the wound that was left by the last time he went to the Russian River, when this place of happiness was corrupted by his mother's abuse. At the end of the epilogue, Dave agrees with his son that the Russian River is his favorite place in the world, showing that no matter how hard his mother had tried, she was still not able to truly erase Dave's innate happiness. He has stayed resilient, which is an important theme of this memoir.