Codi wants desperately to fit in somewhere and to find a meaning for her life. Her struggle is common to young people of her generation, who often leave the rural town they grow up in for the opportunities offered by larger cities, but must contend with how leaving affects their sense of belonging. Codi's struggle also mirrors Doc Homer's and that of anyone born into a disfavored, or black sheep, family. As a woman, Codi repeatedly looks to men to give her a sense of belonging. However, Kingsolver's feminism becomes obvious as Codi repeatedly demonstrates that these men cannot provide her with a purpose in life. It is not until Codi understands her own relationship to her community, and finds a profession that she enjoys on her own, that she can build on that sense of belonging and purpose with Loyd.

Codi's past is shrouded in a number of mysteries, all of which are linked to childbirth. Her mother died from complications with her pregnancy. In high school Codi accidentally became pregnant, and then out of failure or an inability to care for her own body, she lost the child. Codi's failure to become a doctor hinges on her poor ability to assist a difficult delivery during her residency. Pregnancy for Codi is linked not to the creation, but to the destruction of life. Fertility relates not only to the capacity to bear children, but also to the ability to carry forward a family history. Codi has a great deal of difficulty in connection with past as well as future generations. Although she comes home to Grace to assist her father, she does not move into his home. While as a child Codi tried to establish herself as being connected to older generations by calling a woman abuelita (grandmother), that very same woman insisted on Codi's separation from any family history, with the designation "orphan."

Codi is the modern prodigal child who leaves home, goes through a great number of professions in a great number of cities, and returns home to care for her dying father and to learn how to apply her knowledge. In returning to her home town, Codi must face her past, and as she recovers the memory of her childhood she finds that she has always belonged in Grace and that she is an integral part of the community not only because she comes from there, but also because she has a great deal to offer it in the present. Codi's journey into the past to create a future mirrors the path of her town.