One morning Lauren wakes up to find that two new people have stumbled into their camp. Jill was on watch but she did not notice them slip through. The newcomers turn out to be a woman and her nine-year-old child. They are frightened but Lauren offers them food. After they have eaten, Lauren is about to start off on their days journey when the woman asks if she can come with them. After some discussion the group agrees to take them. The newcomers are Emery Tanaka Solis, who is a widow, and her daughter Tori. Emery tells her story. After the death of her husband, she was left with debts to the company they worked for. When the company took away her two young sons, Emery ran away with her daughter, and they drifted north.
Two more people join the group: Grayson Mora and his young daughter Doe. Grayson is a Latino. He remains aloof from the group but stays for the sake of his daughter. Neither Lauren nor Bankole feel comfortable with Grayson. They think there is something wrong about him.
Five days later, Emery is attacked by a man who grabs her daughter Tori. Lauren shoots him. She feels his pain and collapses. Then a gang of seven or eight pyros come from the highway and attack. Lauren shoots one more and collapses again, feeling the mans pain and death. Harry and Bankole fire their guns, and the surviving members of the gang run away. Lauren has received a minor wound, but Jill has been shot dead. She was shot in the back as she rescued Tori. As Lauren recovers, it transpires that like her, Grayson Mora, Emery and their two children are also “sharers.” Lauren still does not like Grayson much, since he still hangs back from the group, but she does get him to promise to observe their rules. Then she walks with Allie for a while, trying to console her for the death of her sister.
As they walk they notice a fire creeping over the hills behind them. It has been set by a group of pyros, probably members of the same gang that attacked them. The fire follows them, and they know they are in danger because it may start moving more quickly than they can run. At night, smoke swirls around them as the fire roars past them on the north side. For a while it is difficult to breathe, and Lauren thinks they will all die. But they survive.
Next morning they reach Clear Lake. Allie and Emery strip a dead young woman of her clothes, and find a thousand dollars in cash in the womans boots. A week later they reach Bankoles land in the coastal hills of Humboldt County. But Bankoles sisters house has been burned down and there is nothing left. They find only bones and ashes. Bankole tries to find out what happened to his sister and her family, but the police claim to know nothing.
Now the group debates whether to stay on Bankoles land. There are some fruit and nut trees there, and they could plant more. They could build a shelter and put in a winter garden. But Harry thinks they will not be able to survive. Lauren is more optimistic, and thinks they can found their Earthseed community there. Bankole points out that they can grow food and sell their crops in nearby towns or on the highway. Zahra and Allie say they want to stay, but Harry is still doubtful, but he is won over. All the others agree to stay.
A week later they hold a funeral for the five members of Bankoles family who died in the fire. They also use the occasion to create a ceremony commemorating the dead in all their families. Each person tells of his or her memories. Then they plant acorns in memory of each dead family member. They decide to call their new community Acorn.
The last chapters develop themes that have been introduced earlier. The allusions to slavery recur with the story of Emerys experience of debt slavery to a corporation-if an employee falls into debt to the company that employs him he is not allowed to leave but becomes a virtual slave. This is what Lauren and Harry feared would happen at Olivar. Now it transpires that such debt slavery is common.
The racial mix of the group is complete when Emery Tanaka Solis joins, since she has a Japanese father and a black mother. Thus all the main minorities in the United States-African-American, Hispanic and Asian-are represented. The addition of two more young children also makes the group resemble a large family (with Bankole playing the role of grandfather). The kids help to bind the adults together.
There are more indications that the group is growing in the value of compassion. Lauren offers food to the newcomers before she knows anything about them. She admits that two weeks ago, she would not have done this. The other members of the group follow her lead. The following paragraph touchingly emphasizes the compassion that exists in the group:
I dug sweet pears out of my pack, and took one each to the woman and the girl. I had just bought them two days before, and I had only three left. Other people got the idea and began sharing what they could spare. Shelled walnuts, apples, a pomegranate, Valencia oranges oranges, figs. . . . little things. (Ch. 23)
When Lauren allows the woman and her child to join the group, Harry (who has learned the lesson of ruthlessness a little too well), says she is going soft. But he is wrong. Lauren, whether she consciously knows it or not, is helping to establish the cooperative, compassionate values that will help the group survive the challenges ahead.