The two most prominent themes in the novel are the unity of grief and love, and the idea that there is always light in the darkness. In the very first chapter, Corrigan struggles with the conflict between the love of his faith and his love for Abelita. When he seems to accept and embrace his love for Abelita, he is at his happiest. Then he tragically dies in a car accident. Abelita is left to wonder if he truly loved her or if he had been planning to return to his religious life.
Corrigan’s death introduces Ciaran to Lara. He finds a way to love her even though she is partially responsible for Corrigan’s death. They find each other through grief and forgiveness. Ciaran also learns to love his brother for who he was, rather than trying to change him. The two brothers had just come to a point of acceptance and appreciation of one another when Corrigan died. It seemed that Corrigan had only just found all the love in his life, and had an opportunity to enjoy life rather than suffer through its poverty when it was all taken from him.
Claire and Solomon are married, but they cannot seem to grieve together. Claire seeks companionship in other women who have also lost their sons in Vietnam. She and Gloria form an emotional connection and remain friends for life. Gloria has lost all of her three sons to the war in Vietnam and has also lost two husbands. She finds love again when she adopts Jazzlyn’s daughters and gives them a happy home.
Tillie grieves for Jazzlyn. She cannot come to terms with her death and the fact that she believes she has been a terrible mother. Her ultimate sacrifice is taking the rap for a burglary so that Jazzlyn could go home to her girls. Tillie decides to commit suicide because she wants to be near Jazzlyn and she also feels a need to “confront” God about the unfairness of Jazzlyn’s life. Tillie also reflects on her life and the small moments of love she experienced. She develops honest feelings for a man who treats her well, however, she also realizes that she loved Corrigan and that she would have made a real life with him.
In the 1970s, New York was turning into a crime-filled and cynical...
(The entire section is 877 words.)