The characters of Shields’s novel most often are fully realized individuals but are most important in revealing facets of Daisy.
Daisy Goodwill Hoad Flett is the ultimately unknowable center of the book, a mystery who is explained, commented on, and loved by her friends and family. Shields, with a touch of Magical Realism, uses Daisy’s point of view to describe her own birth as well as her parents’ courtship and early married life, providing details unknowable to her. Daisy’s life is colored by the sadness of her birth, a unique and orphaned memory with which Daisy feels burdened during her middle and later years. Her unknowable center is emphasized by Shields via Daisy’s close relationship to her college friends Fraidy and Beans. They are great friends, but she does not tell them about her sneeze in the moment before her first husband, Harold A. Hoad, fell out of the hotel window. Daisy withholds her essential self from all those the reader expects to be closest to her.
Cuyler Goodwill is Daisy’s father, a man who knew a loveless childhood but develops a passionate attachment to Mercy Stone Goodwill, Daisy’s mother. Cuyler works in stone, whereas Daisy gardens and cooks. Cuyler develops the kind of love and passion his daughter misses all of her life. He is, however, like his daughter in his ability to present representations of life; his excellent speaking skills, for example, are displayed at Daisy’s graduation from...
(The entire section is 512 words.)