"They're good bees if you love them, and Boma does. A bird wouldn't know enough to hate a bee, I don't think. Do you?" Alice has already decided that Heaven is a hard stone's throw beyond her ken. "I wouldn't know," she says, which is the truth. Nothing in her life has prepared her to make a judgment on a war between bees and ostriches. As they walk past Boma's mailbox, which has been fashioned from a length of drainpipe and wire basket, Alice hears the faint, distant thrum of the hive. She makes up her mind that for as long as her mission takes, on this stretch of Heaven's road at least, it would be a good idea to love Boma's bees.
This passage comes right after Alice has arrived in Heaven, Oklahoma. She finds Heaven poor and rundown, not at all living up to its name. The lines refer to a comical feud between Boma Mellowbug, the town's beloved crazy, and the rich ostrich farm owner. Boma's character provides greater insight into the communal values of the Native American people. She is an eccentric, funny old woman, but in the Cherokee community she is valued for her prophetic wisdom, and her zany creativity. The image of the mailbox made resourcefully from wire and drainpipe is only one example of Boma's eccentric spirit. The author also describes in detail her house, part of which is made out of an old school bus, and her tree, that everyone in the community helps her decorate with old containers, glass, and bottles. Boma's home is juxtaposed with the rich ostrich farmer's, but Alice immediately loves Boma's more. Annawake has commented that the Cherokee community does not condemn people for a lack of self- sufficiency. What Boma offers the community is irreplaceable, and the love her for who she is.
Boma's bees symbolize the fine line between eccentricity and wisdom. Keeping bees under one's roof may seem ridiculous, but it also requires a special personality. Boma knows how to live with the bees without getting stung, since her personality is the kind that the bees respect. Like her bees, Boma is respected and loved by her community, regardless of how crazy she may seem to an outsider. Alice's commitment to love Boma's bees represents a larger sentiment growing inside her about the Cherokee people and Nation.
"You said, the night we met, that I was only capable of seeing one side of things. I've thought about that. I understand attachments between mothers and their children. But if you're right, if I have no choice here but to be a bird of prey, tearing flesh to keep my own alive, it's because I understand attachments. That's the kind of hawk I am—I've lost my other wing."
These lines come from the letter that Annawake sends to Jax after their conversation in Tucson. This letter is an important to furthering the plot; it indicates how seriously Annawake is pursuing Turtle's case. The letter also helps to develop Annawake's character. By telling her brother Gabriel's story, Annawake reveals to the reader her motivation behind going to law school and working on behalf of her people. This passage explicitly connects Taylor's attachment to her daughter with Annawake's attachment to her brother. Indeed, both women are motivated by these respective attachments. We see that their characters are actually very much alike.
The image of Annawake as a bird of prey is an interesting metaphor, because it relates to a recurring motif in the book that has to do with nature's cycles and systems. This passage suggests that Annawake should not be blamed for her predatory habits. She is acting in the same way any wounded animal would, desperately trying to protect her own kin. This motif suggests that people cannot always act out of compassion alone. Oftentimes survival demands that human beings hurt others for the sake of protecting their own.
Alice stretches her legs into the pale orange morning that is taking hold around her, and it dawns on her with a strange shock that she is still the person she was as a nine-year-old. Even her body is mostly unchanged. Her breasts are of a small, sound architecture and her waist is limber and strong; she feels like one of those California buildings designed for an earthquake. As surely as her organs are in the right places, she feels Sugar is still there in Heaven. She could write her today. She's kept feelings for Sugar, her long-lost relative who came home to her one day in the checkout line. Something like that is as bad or good as a telephone ringing in the night: either way, you're not as alone as you think.
These lines appear at the end of the first chapter, when Alice has wandered out into her garden in the middle of the night. Her marriage has failed to provide her warmth, and she daydreams about her best friend from her girlhood, Sugar. Many of the novels themes surface in this paragraph. The quote first introduces the gender theme that will be important as the novel progresses. When Alice dreams of a warmer, kinder place for herself, she thinks of Sugar, and not about another male companion. The reference to a telephone call also alludes to Alice's bond with Taylor, another woman in Alice's life. The call "in the middle of the night" could imply that Alice is thinking of Taylor, since they always are burdened by living in different time zones. Alice's feelings of aloneness also anticipate that the idea of community will be an important theme in the novel. Finally, the way Alice thinks about her body suggests her own personal journey that is to come. She imagines that her body feels the same as it did when she was a little girl. The image of Alice as a little girl suggests that she is metaphorically still just starting her life. She also feels her body is of "sound architecture," built like an earthquake-proof building. This kind of imagery suggests a great deal of inner strength. The strong body symbolizes the strength of mind and will lead Alice out of her lonely life to a new and better place.
"In law school, I slept in the library pretty often. There was a couch in the women's lounge .But I always dreamed about the water in Tenkiller. All those perch down there you could catch, any time, you know? A world of free breakfast, waiting to help get you into another day. I've never been without that. Have you?"
These lines are spoken by Annawake during her conversation with Franklin Turnbo concerning Turtle's case. Although Turnbo is reluctant to let Annawake pursue the case, he is convinced when she reminds him of this wonderful "world of free breakfast" that they have never been without. This image of the Nation suggests at least two qualities about Cherokee life that cannot be found anywhere else. First of all, the Nation is a place segregated from capitalist values espoused by American society at large. It is a place that offers an abundance of food to all who live there, without asking for anything in return. It is a place where human beings are not judged based on how much money they have. Secondly, the Nation offers a natural environment protected from human corruption. The Cherokee still live in balance with nature. Frank Turnbo recalls listening to the meadowlarks on the telephone wires, the same way Annawake remembers the lake filled with perch. Animal life does not only exist as food, but persists as part of a natural system. These two qualities of the Nation make it a unique place, a place that every Cherokee deserves to know and love.
"[Turtle's] confused because I'm confused. I think of Jax and Lou Ann and Dwayne Ray, and of course you, and Mattie, my boss at the tire store, all those people as my family. But when you never put a name on things, you're just accepting that it's okay for people to leave when they feel like it .That's what your family is, the people you won't let go of for anything."
These lines are spoken by Taylor after she and Turtle meet with Andy Rainbelt. When asked about her family, Turtle told Andy that she does not have one. Now, Taylor clarifies for herself, who her family is. Taylor's lines refer to her last month or so with Jax. When she left her home in Tucson, Taylor left her relationship with Jax up in the air, telling him he could see other people. His affair with Gundi resulted from Taylor's indecisiveness. Taylor's ideas about family no doubt are informed by her new relationship with the Cherokee Nation. Living on her own has led Taylor to feel unconfident and alienated. She keeps mentioning her lack of a support net, even suggesting that Turtle deserves more than Taylor has given her. Although she is a strong, independent character, Taylor now appreciates the support a family offers.