Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 303
The novel picks up from Cecelia’s arrest and uses her reflections while in jail to highlight her significant life experiences. She is arrested for DUI in Berkeley, California, where she was attending law school. Her family was not with her. Back in Washington state, her husband Nathan was
supposedly waiting for her to finish law school and return to him and the two children and the house they were buying on a lot and a half in a peaceful little middle-class neighborhood….
Cecelia has mixed feelings about this conventional lifestyle in a predominately white area, as she is part Native American and was raised on a reservation. After becoming pregnant as a teen and raising her child without a father, she had succeeded academically. Her parents had given many mixed messages in raising her, as she attended a white school. Her mother spoke always of being Irish, but in fact her mother was Native American as well.
She wished [her mother] did not think of herself so much as an Irish person. It was only an accident… that Mary Theresa Harrigan happened to look like her name and was therefore so loved by those two old Irish immigrants who were her grandparents.
What if, instead, Mary Theresa had looked like her own mother, the chief’s daughter, or was dark like her own daughters? What if she looked like what she really was, an Indian woman?
Cecelia, despite her achievements, did not feel at ease with what others saw as success.
Her life was in chaos, her marriage most likely dead, if not buried. She always hurt inside, and lived each day with fear and anxiety.
The plot is finally resolved when Nathan comes to get her out of jail, and they decide to divorce. Her “jailing” is ended in two ways.