There is a parallel story about a sixteen year old girl who was named after Alma. She takes it upon herself to find out who the first Alma is and ends up finding Leo. Her relationship with her mother and her little brother are examined, and an uncle gives her some insight which helps her understand her mother and helps her open her eyes to the possibility of having a stronger relationship with her. Her mom is living for her dead husband and Alma must learn to accept the parameters in which her mother is living her life.
Leo, also, is living his life for people who are no longer accessible to him, Alma, and their son who doesn't know he exists. He's built his entire life around them. He gets up in the morning, writes, eats, breathes for these people. When he learns that they are both dead he loses his motivation for living. He has always been obsessed with death and believes that he will die 'maybe tomorrow or the next day', but now feels that it is even more real that he no longer belongs in the living world. Amla, the younger one, finds him at this point.
Leo becomes overwhelmed by learning that someone was named after his love, and we can assume that Alma continues to tell him about how many lives he has touched. Leo, who has spent his life obsessing about death and needing people to know he exists, has found that he has in fact touched lives and nurtured love between others. His life's purpose is fulfilled.
In this book, we are forced to look at how we are living our lives, and how we want to spend that time. Love is what drove these two characters through their lives and death is unavoidable. Maybe I am a romantic at heart, but this was amazing for me to read. The way in which Krauss tells the story is beautiful; it reads like poetry. Some of the passages made me cry. The last two pages of the book alone made the entire thing worth it. Leo was in love, and Leo started dying the day he was born. Death is unavoidable, and love is why we live.