Nearly eight months has passed. It is now June, 2026. Keith finally returns home, and once again he brings money with him. He tells Lauren that he has a room in a building with some other people, but Lauren knows that he and his friends are squatting in an abandoned building. Keith eventually tells her that his friends took him in because he can read and write, and they cant. They need him to read the instructions for all the technological equipment that they have stolen. Lauren doesnt believe him. She thinks he must also be involved in drugs and robbery. Keith finally admits that he shot a man and robbed him of his money. He also tells Lauren about the wretched lives of the drug addicts he has seen, the ones who take the drug pyro that makes them want to set fire to things.
A month later, Keith returns again and gives Lauren some money for her birthday. She is not pleased with the gift, and tells him to give it to Cory instead. But he insists that she have it and then give it to Cory if that is what she wants. Just over a month later, in August, Keith is killed. He had been badly cut and all his skin was burned away. The police tell the family that Keith was tortured by drug dealers.
By October, the situation in the neighborhood has reached crisis point. Robberies are increasing. In one raid, an old woman is bludgeoned to death.
Lauren notes a new development in the way society is organized. A private international company, KSF, has taken over the running of the Los Angeles coastal suburb of Olivar. Olivar is wealthier than Robledo, but it is unable to protect itself from environmental changes, economic decline, and refugees. The city therefore has struck a deal with KSF, whereby the company, which owns water, power and agricultural industries, provides them with jobs and security. Cory thinks this is a great development, and wants to move there. The company wants to recruit teachers and other professionals who would be willing to work for room and board. But her husband is not interested. He knows that anyone working for KSF would find it difficult to live on the salaries the company offered. They would soon be in debt to the company, a form of debt slavery.
A number of families in the neighborhood are seriously considering moving to Olivar. Lauren knows that Olivar offers no future for her, and she decides that in less than a years time, when she is eighteen, she will leave the neighborhood and make her own way in life. She plans to go north, and wonders if she could survive by teaching people to read and write. She thinks this may draw people to her, and to her vision of Earthseed. She calls the book of verses that she is writing, Earthseed: the Book of the Living.
In November, the Garfield family is accepted at Olivar. Joanne does not really want to go, but she has no choice. Her boyfriend Harry Balter wants her to stay with him, get married and go north. He refuses to go to Olivar.
A few days later, Laurens father fails to return home after a morning at work. No one knows where he is. A search party led by Jay Garfield goes out but does not find him. The next day, searching in the hills, Marcus finds a human arm, slashed and covered with dried blood. Lauren examines it and realizes that it could belong to her father. In the hills they hear the screams of a man being tortured, but they do not see him.
Four days later, the Reverend Olamina still has not been found. At church services that morning, Wyatt Talcott and Jay Garfield offer informal eulogies to him, although neither actually says he is dead. Lauren gives a sermon about perseverance. She says that if the community persists, it will survive.
A week before Christmas, a formal funeral is held for Laurens father, even though his body has not been found. Four days later, the Garfields leave for Olivar. A KSF armored truck comes to pick them up.
Curtis Talcott, Laurens boyfriend, wants to marry her and leave the neighborhood. He wants to go north. Lauren admits she has a similar idea, but she had planned to go alone. Then she tells him she is having doubts about that idea, because she feels she should stay at home and help protect the family. She promises she will marry Curtis when her family is back on its feet. Then they can move out together. Curtis is unhappy with this solution.
A couple of days before Christmas, the Payne-Parrish house is burned down, with Wardell Parrish the only survivor, and the Olamina house is robbed.
Cory takes over some of her husbands teaching responsibilities at the college, and Lauren takes over some of the schoolteaching from her stepmother.
As in previous chapters, the author takes trends apparent in America in the 1980s and makes them much worse. She points out that many people cannot read or write. Keith is tolerated by his companions because he can read and they cannot, and Lauren wonders whether she may be able to make a living as she travels by teaching people to read and write, or reading and writing for them. The theme is relevant because in the 1980s there was much public concern about growing illiteracy in the United States. According to one study, 13 percent of seventeen-year-old Americans could not read or write. A government survey conducted in 1993 found that over 40 percent of the adult population did not have the literacy skills needed to successfully meet day-to-day challenges.
Butler also takes a stab at the increasing control that multinational companies have over American life. KSF, the company that buys out Olivar, is a German, Japanese and Canadian company.
Butler also touches on issue of the dangerous side-effects of many prescription drugs. The fictional drug Paracetco, for example, that Laurens mother was addicted to and which caused Laurens hyperempathy syndrome, was originally used as a treatment for Alzheimers disease.