Although the story is not written in the first person, Sara is effectively the narrator of the story, and the series of scenes unfold out of her experience of the events. The story is told in an objective tone and in episodic form, with descriptions of events and the use of dialogue between the characters coupled with Sara’s inner thoughts, feelings, and observations.
The story line of “Way Stations” in effect echoes that of Stones for Ibarra: Both story and novel are framed by the loss of a husband and begin and end with their female protagonists arriving at and departing from Ibarra.
The landscape is important in Doerr’s work, and the tension between will and fate are reflected in it. Sara’s gardening and pruning of her yard is an attempt to control her life and maintain order, in contrast to the sometimes harsh serendipity of the surrounding arroyos. Religious imagery pervades the story: For example, when Richard shows Kate the abandoned mines, Sara thinks of them as like beads on a rosary, each successive one representing a new hope or prayer.
The story follows a metaphorical path of rebirth and transfiguration. It begins with conception (at the town of Concepción), and Kate’s time in the hammock at the Evertons’ is a womblike period of gestation. When Kate and Sara enter the church, it is described with multiple images of water, like a baptism, or as if the two women were deep in an ocean or surrounded by amniotic fluid. The return to the train station at the end of the story is a kind of rebirth for Kate, as she chooses her own independent path and embarks on it. Her choice involves a play on words of the story’s title, as she chooses her own way at the station, accepting that the previously planned route of her life (represented in her train ticket that was purchased before the breakup of her marriage) has been changed and that she needs to go on, to her own voyage of discovery.