Alice is the folksy, down-to-earth matriarch who embodies and repeatedly reflects upon a key issue for Greer females: their stubborn self-sufficiency. From Alice’s mother Minerva Stamper (who ran a hog farm by herself) through Alice (who leaves two husbands) to Taylor (whose main goal in leaving Kentucky was to avoid the small-town girl’s common fate of early pregnancy), Alice sees her female line as holding so tenaciously to their independence that it is difficult for them to establish and sustain relationships—particularly with men. The reader, however, takes pleasure in watching Alice reach out to provide maternal support for Taylor, Turtle, and even Barbie. Once Alice arrives in Heaven, she plays the role of an observer from the white world who enables the reader to appreciate the rich human and spiritual interconnectedness of the Cherokee culture.
Taylor, the chief protagonist in the novel, earns the reader’s admiration for her independence, her pluck, and her devotion to her daughter Turtle. Early scenes involving the Hoover Dam incident establish the purity and power of this mother-daughter bond, as Taylor’s staunch belief in her daughter’s integrity enables her to prod disbelieving male officials into conducting a search for the accident victim her child has seen. Yet the reader also sees that Taylor’s admirable qualities have their shadow side. Her self-reliance takes her out on a dubious limb when she flees with Turtle, disregarding the...
(The entire section is 601 words.)