The following passage is an extract from a novel. The narrator comes home to find her mother has attempted suicide. Hakkim is her mother’s live in boyfriend.
One Sunday afternoon in late winter, after spending the weekend at Joanne’s, I arrived home to find out house surprisingly silent. Hakkim’s car was not in the driveway and, as I walked down the hallway, it seemed that everyone was out. I put my bag in my room. In the kitchen, I was puzzled to see my mother’s purse sitting on the counter, because she never left home without taking it. I ran to her room and pushed open the door to find her sprawled on the bed. I shook her, called her name, but I couldn’t wake her. There was an empty bottle of scotch on the floor.
I darted back to the kitchen and checked the cabinet where she kept her medications: all five bottles were completely empty. There was a glass on the counter still holding the dregs of water.
We didn’t have a telephone and the nearest public booth was several streets away. I took some change from my moneybox and ran as fast as I could. I made the call to summon an ambulance and ran home just as quickly. Since I’d seen this happen before I knew what to do, and gathered the empty bottles of sleeping pills and Valium so the doctors at the hospital would know exactly what drugs she’d taken. But I also knew it would be up to me to estimate how much was now in her bloodstream and, as I sat beside her limp body, reading the dates on the labels, I felt myself growing cold. I realised she’d had the prescriptions refilled only two days before, and had drunk down three months’ worth of medication.
Hakkim pulled up just before the ambulance arrived, and after the officers took her away, we drove to the hospital in silence. I expected the nurses would merely pump her stomach and that she’d be discharged the following day – as had happened twice before – but by the time we’d parked the car and inquired at reception, she’d already been admitted to intensive care.
Before we were allowed to see her, a doctor appeared with her empty prescription bottles and began to question Hakkim, but Hakkim’s comprehension of English was so limited that the doctor, frustrated, had no choice but to turn his attention to me. Did she take the full contents of these bottles? Has she been drinking alcohol? Has she been depressed recently? Has she attempted suicide before? To each question I nodded and said, Yes, and the doctor, exasperated by the answers, raked his hands through his curly black hair.
She’s going to be all right, isn’t she? I asked. She’s always been all right before.
The doctor shook his head. She’s taken enough medication to kill an elephant.
Which of the following best explains why the narrator “felt [herself] growing cold” (third paragraph)?
A She realised just how much medication her mother had taken
B She noticed that her mother’s body was limp
C It was late winter
D She was scared of the possibility of having to grow up without a mother
Answer and Solution:
Solution: First put the phrase in context. “As I sat beside her limp body, reading the dates on the labels, I felt myself growing cold. I realised she’d had the prescriptions refilled only two days before, and had drunk down three months’ worth of medication.” It is clear that the reason she grows cold is because she has figured out how much medication her mother had taken (option A). Nowhere in the passage is the possibility of the narrator having to grow up without a mother discussed (option D), nor is it mentioned that the reason she grew cold was because it was late winter (option C). While she does take note of her mother’s limp body (option B) as she grows cold, the main reason she is growing cold is because she is “reading the dates on the labels” and figuring out how much medication her mother has taken, and so option A is the best answer.
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