Sara Will focuses on an adult protagonist, but she, like many teenagers, must learn to cope with turbulent emotions as she experiences love for the first time—insecurity, confusion, and the sweetness of being loved. The juxtaposed character of the teenage unwed mother, Eva, also learns to love. Both women come of age, and although each initially resists change, both eventually do change. Sara is frequently confused by her own emotions, but she recognizes Eva’s developing maturity. Therefore, Sara Will is a novel of initiation in which adult and teenage characters discover themselves and love.
The major subject of this novel is emotions and the tensions in human relationships. Treasuring her grief and almost never leaving her home, Sara Will is afraid of relationships and has a lifelong history of not taking risks. As she learns to care for Eva, Rachel, and Fate, however, she experiences the pain and the joy that risk-taking and love entail. Eva, too, must free herself from the past, especially her parents’ control, and learn to trust and love her Uncle Fate and Michael. Each woman eventually makes commitments to others, as does Fate, who rejects his empty life to help Eva and to love Sara Will.
Sara Will is also about family. Sara Will’s grief is crippling, and she will not let her living sister into her emotional life. Yet, as her family expands to include four strangers, she learns to appreciate her unconventional family and to welcome them into her heart. Eva also understands the importance of family. She is a loving mother, and she gradually comes to love Michael, who wants them to be a family.
Sara Will emphasizes setting because isolation is one of its major subjects. The physical isolation of Sara Will’s home and of Serena’s grave provides the context for emotional isolation. As Sara Will’s emotional isolation decreases, so does her physical isolation. She ventures from her home into Tyler Mills. The trip across the lake to Serena’s grave shows that she is no longer isolated because she loves Fate enough to risk the journey. In the cemetery, she brings her past and present together so that she can live life more fully.