Tangerine:Novel Summary: Part 1: August 18-19-21-23

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Part 1

Friday, August 18

Paul’s mother drives the family Volvo eight hundred miles to Florida’s Tangerine County. They pass through farmland and arrive at the Lake Windsor Downs housing development, where their new home is. Dad and Erik are about to eat the pizza dinner that they ordered. Paul finds his new bedroom and writes in his private journal on his computer before going to bed. He is awakened by the sound of Erik running down the hall. Erik drives off in a car. Paul cannot get back to sleep and keeps thinking of a zombie that he thinks is following the family from Houston, down the Interstate to Florida.



The dates of each heading correspond to the dates of Paul’s entries in his journal on the computer. He is telling the entire story through these journal entries.


It is clear that Paul feels neglected. His father is obsessively concerned with fulfilling Erik’s dream of becoming a college football player. Paul seems to have little affection for his father or his brother. He feels a surge of anger when he finds that a box labeled “Erik’s trophies” has been mistakenly placed in his new bedroom. 


This section also introduces the theme of deforestation. The citrus trees in this portion of Florida are being burned down in order to make way for development.


Friday, August 19

There is a thunderstorm during the night, and in the morning Paul awakes to the smell of smoke. Something is on fire in the area but neither Paul nor his mother know what the source of it is. Mom calls 911 and twenty minutes later, a fire engine arrives. A young man named Wayne explains that it is a “muck fire” that burns in an open field at the end of the street. He says the fire never goes out; it burns underground all the time because the field is full of lignite (a type of coal). The fire flares up whenever lightning strikes. Mom is not pleased by this piece of information and says she will bring it to the attention of the Homeowners’ Association.




Paul is just beginning to find out how the process of removing the trees and creating housing has disturbed the balance of nature and is resulting in some strange phenomena, including the muck fires. Muck fires are common in Florida and can burn for weeks. This entry in Paul’s journal also raises the issue of the frequent thunderstorms in the area, which will play a big role as the plot unfolds in Part 1.


Saturday, August 19, later

In the evening, Paul takes his bike and rides around the neighborhood. The homes have been built in four different styles, each named after British royal families: Lancaster, York, Stuart, and Tudor. He passes a pond, which he assumes is Lake Windsor. He returns home and Mom introduces him to Mr. Costello, the president of the Homeowners’ Association. Mr. Costello tells him that Lake Windsor has been stocked with koi—Japanese carp, that look like goldfish but are much bigger.


Dad and Erik arrive home from Gainsville, where they have been looking at the football stadium at the University of Florida. Mr. Costello fetches his son, Mike, who is also a football player. Paul learns from the ensuing conversation about football and that the Lake Windsor football team is the best in the three-county area.


Mike says he is the number two quarterback. Paul knows that in the coming season, Mike will be holding the football for Erik, who will be the placekicker.



Paul’s brother Erik shows he has the ability to impress others both socially and on the football field. He appears to be heading for stardom. But Paul sees through him. “Erik was as phony as he needed to be,” he writes. This suggests the theme that Paul, although his vision is poor (he is legally blind), has the gift of seeing through appearances to the truth of the matter. His outer vision is damaged, but his inner vision is sound, more so than any of the other characters, it seems.

Monday, August 21


Dad leaves for his new job in the Civil Engineering Department, while Paul and Mom unpack boxes. In the afternoon they drive to visit the adjoining campuses of Lake Windsor Middle School and Lake Windsor High School. They meet Mrs. Gates, the principal of the middle school, who tells them that the main building is for sixth graders; seventh and eighth graders use portable classrooms. She gives them a tour of the building. When they go outside, Paul notices that there are about forty portable buildings, connected by wooden walkways. Back in the office, Mom fills out an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for Paul, since he is visually impaired. Paul looks forward to playing on the soccer team as goalie.


Wednesday, August 23

The entire family visits the school campus again. As the football players practice, Dad talks to the head coach, Coach Warner, assuring him that Erik can give the team at least an extra five or six points. There is a severe thunderstorm, but the players continue their practice. Mom and Paul take shelter in their car. After the storm, Paul gets out of the car and goes to meet some of the middle school soccer players, including Joey Costello. Paul is confident that he will be able to win a place on the team. 


Part of the story revolves around Paul’s father’s obsession with promoting Erik’s football career. Here the reader gets a clue as to why: Dad tells Coach Warner how disappointed he was not to be big enough to play football for Ohio State in his college years. He is now trying to live out his dream through his son, which leads him to neglect taking an interest in Paul as well. Paul is left to make his own way onto the soccer team without any parental encouragement.

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