The section opens with Arthur and Miranda at a Toronto restaurant. Miranda, with a bruise on her face, says at the coat check that “I’m going to leave him.” Ten minutes later they are photographed leaving the restaurant together by paparazzi. By this time, Arthur is a movie star, and the contrast between their clothing—Arthur’s expensive and smooth coat and Miranda’s thrifty ten dollar peacoat—could not be clearer. Arthur is then interviewed about how he knows this “mystery brunette” and Arthur keeps mum about who Miranda is and why they were photographed together.
It is then revealed that they are both from the same hometown: Delano Island, a small island off the coast of Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Arthur feels those from the city can never understand the simplicity of it: a general store, a real estate office, a school with 60 children, and ferns that grow up over your head. It’s a place of immense natural beauty and intense claustrophobia. Arthur moves to Toronto for university until he drops out of school to become an actor. He meets his best friend Clark in acting class and parties in Toronto for a year until Clark has to return to England. Arthur moves to New York and lands a gig on Law and Order before moving to Los Angeles. He goes to parties in LA and gets small roles in movies. Ultimately he ends up going back to Toronto to film an independent movie, glad to feel that he’s returning in “triumph.”
Arthur gets a call from his mother that Miranda, a niece of a friend, has moved to go to art school in Toronto. He agrees to take her to a lunch; she is seventeen. They bond over their love of the anonymity of Toronto and talk about their respective worlds that the other cannot quite understand: her explaining art school and her boyfriend Pablo, him explaining the surrealism of being recognized by strangers as an actor. She admires the fact that he has made a living doing what he loves to do, and they part ways on friendly terms.
Not long after this, Arthur starts to get better and better roles. Bigger parts in movies, Broadway plays, HBO series. Soon he becomes “extremely, unpleasantly famous” in a way that makes him feel disoriented and lonely. Seven years later, he returns to Toronto for a movie shoot at the age of thirty-six, and calls up Miranda, who at this time is twenty-four.
Miranda is working at a shipping company called Neptune Enterprises as an executive assistant, supporting her boyfriend Pablo who was on the rise to be the next big thing in the art world but who now hasn’t sold work in years. She enjoys her job in the corporate world, not matter how often Pablo derides her for being a part of the “machine.” While at work, she works on her graphic novel, Station Eleven, about physicist Dr. Eleven and his Undersea space station. When Arthur calls, she and Pablo are in a fight, and Miranda requests a dinner date with Arthur.
They hit it off on the date; Arthur asks about her graphic novel and they show a genuine connection. He asks if she’s still dating Pablo; she says that they’re breaking up. They kiss in the cab and she goes back to his hotel. She returns to her apartment with Pablo and packs up her things. Arthur is concerned he’ll hurt her; she says he wouldn’t dare.
Years later, Arthur and Miranda live in the Hollywood Hills and are celebrating their third wedding anniversary at their home; however, something is wrong with the evening. They are celebrating with a group of people, rather than on their own. Arthur’s lawyer, blockbuster costar Elizabeth Colton, and Clark are all there to celebrate. Miranda is unhappy in this life, and often feels like odd man out in these situations. Miranda feels tension in her relationship with Arthur, and during the dinner with various insufferable people, she is questioned about whether or not she will publish Station Eleven. She says she has no intention to do so: she wants to do it for art’s sake. After the questioning, she decides to let her dog Luli outside.
While outside, she watches Arthur tell the story of how they met (slightly altered) and toast to his wife. She picks up on the way Elizabeth avoids Arthur’s eyes and confirms her suspicions that he is having an affair with her. Clark comes outside and comforts her, giving her a small glass paperweight.
Elizabeth passes out drunk on the couch and Miranda realizes that her marriage is over. She goes for a walk outside and cries, before stumbling up and talking to a paparazzi named Jeevan, to whom she opens up before he betrays her and snaps of picture of her. She goes to her workshop, and when Elizabeth enters; the two discuss the affair vaguely, Miranda not even having the energy to be angry.
Miranda divorces Arthur months later and moves to Toronto as Elizabeth moves in with Arthur. Divorced at 27, Miranda rejoins the shipping company Neptune Logistics and begins rising up in the company and traveling constantly. She remains single, but constantly whispers into the mirror “I repent nothing.”
This section of the novel gives backstory into the relationship between Arthur and Miranda, but also foreshadows some of the events to come. Having the information that Arthur will be thrice married and divorced infused the relationship between Arthur and Miranda and Arthur and Elizabeth with a sense of doom. The choice to tell the story out of sequence takes away the element of surprise but increases the reader’s sense of dramatic irony.
Arthur’s origin from a small Canadian island successfully plays on the trope of a small-town kid going to seek greatness in a big city. While Arthur pursues a high-profile acting career, hoping for fame, when he gets it he finds it ultimately unsatisfying and disillusioning. He loses his sense of identity, not feeling he quite belongs in Toronto or Los Angeles or New York, yet unable to return to Delano Island.
Miranda is a great foil to Arthur; she wants to escape her island home but she pursues her art solely for herself and not for accolades. Perhaps this lack of pathological ambition is what attracts Arthur to Miranda in the first place, however this leads to her being a pariah in Hollywood. As Arthur’s star rises, Miranda refuses to change.
Because most of the Hollywood scenes are told from Miranda’s perspective, we get a sense of her excellent skills at understanding people. “Tesch seems to be someone who mistakes rudeness for intellectual rigor” is a pithy thought Miranda has during the dinner party as the woman questions everyone at the table about what they “do,” highlighting her feeling that she is surrounded by people who don't understand her.
The discover that Arthur is having an affair is not a surprise. The juxtaposition of the couple falling in love against with the demise of their marriage in mere pages, however, highlights the swiftness with which their contrasting personalities mesh when Arthur is away from his Los Angeles life, but clash in Los Angeles and when Arthur is a star. There is a sense that Clark is disappointed in how his old childhood friend is treating his wife, and also a sense that everyone is aware of the affair except for Miranda. The interaction with Jeevan, who was the one to perform CPR on Arthur, raises the expectation that most of these characters paths will cross as the novel continues.