The characterization of Mrs. John only comes from Annie because Annie is the sole narrator of the novel. Because Annie hates her mother for much of the book, Mrs. John's character often comes across negatively. Given Annie's strong emotions toward her mother, however, these impressions are not generally credible. Initially, Mrs. John appears to be a wonderful mother. She is strong, capable, and beautiful. When she walks through the markets in town, the sellers all run to greet her. She contains powerful knowledge about nature, the rituals of obeah, and even about death. It is she who first teaches Annie about death and she who later has the strength to prepare a dead child for the grave. Her ability to not be cowed by the ugly natural elements of the world show her to be a courageous woman, especially in Annie's eyes. The kindness of Annie's mother can initially be seen from the lengthy baths that she gives her, the fact that she kisses her before sleep even though Annie is supposed to lose the kiss as punishment, and the time that she takes to retell Annie the family history as seen in her trunk. When Annie starts to dislike her mother, the mother still appears to be reasonable. Annie's initial anger at her mother starts because her mother insists that they are separate people, which Annie cannot accept. Because Annie's anger at her mother appears to be an outgrowth of Annie's immaturity, it does not appear initially that Annie's mother has done anything wrong in suggesting the true fact that she and her daughter are separate people.

Annie's mother is also a sexual creature, which is one of the reasons that Annie hates her. Mrs. John manages to captivate her husband's attentions as they eat lunch together and later they are actually shown having sex. The legacy of sexual promiscuity seems to hang over Annie's mother early life. Her flight from Dominica at age sixteen took place after a fight with her father that appears most likely linked with her being engaged in some early sexual activity. Still, although Annie envies her parents' sexual union, Mrs. John does not seem to neglect her daughter by having sexual relationships with her husband. Because Annie's description of her mother is not believable, there is no way to determine if Mrs. John actually neglected her daughter in her attentions to her husband or not.