One of the major themes is identity. This is a novel told by three generations of Native American women, each trying to discover who they are in a Christian white world. Rayona is the "granddaughter" of mixed blood, having a Native American mother and a black father. She has to discover how to survive in between cultures. Christine, Rayona's mother, has a difficult time trying to be independent because she knows little about her mother and nothing about her father. Ida, the "grandmother", remains truer than any other characters to her culture, but is still affected by the mainstream culture of white America.
The strengths and weaknesses of the characters are also a theme of the book. Rayona's biggest weakness is her ignorance of why the people around her behave the way they do, but she also possesses great imagination and courage. Christine's love for Rayona and Lee and her desire to protect them is a strength, while feeling isolated is a weakness. Ida is a determined woman who is practical, but her resentment toward her father and her lies reflect her weaknesses.
Culture clash is another theme. This book shows several different forms of culture and how these differences can cause people to create barriers among the people involved. We don't always accept others who are different from ourselves.