Sophie Caco grows from a young girl to an adult woman with her own child. She is the emotional, as well as the narrative, heart of the novel. The third-person limited narration gives Sophie’s often bewildered view of a world over which she feels she has no control. She cannot stop herself from being shipped off to America; she cannot stop her mother’s nightmares and the tests; she cannot understand the circumstances of her own reactions to the events around her. She fights back the only way she knows how: by marrying Joseph and leaving her mother’s house. By the end, she comes closer to understanding her own behavior and the behavior of her family members, but the cost has been great—estrangement from her mother, problems with her husband, and anger at her family. Her relationship with her mother—who moves from a voice on a tape recording to a living presence to a tormentor to a role model—shapes her world in ways she only begins to understand by the end of the novel.
Tante Atie spent years of sacrifice to rear Sophie, only to have her returned to her mother. While she insists that Sophie belongs with her mother, the loss of Sophie greatly affects Atie’s life for the worse. Readers learn that Atie as a young woman planned to marry but that the man left her for someone else. Atie and Sophie live across the street from this man and his wife; Atie watches them at night and cries. When Sophie leaves, Atie returns to care for her mother—the...
(The entire section is 450 words.)