Taylor Greer is gutsy and practical. She views her hometown as stifling and tiny, and she decides she wants to avoid the trap of an early pregnancy and make her escape to a more interesting life. Taylor’s spirited, quirky voice shapes the novel. She perceives things in an original fashion, communicating her wonder at the customs and landscape of the Southwest with unusual metaphors and folksy language. Taylor settles in Tucson, Arizona, because its landscape strikes her as outlandish; newness and amusement appeal to her more than comfort or familiarity. As she contends with dangerous poverty, an unasked-for child, and many other trials, Taylor’s wit and spirit remain intact.

Although never naïve, Taylor becomes even more worldly after learning about the political corruption and personal tragedy faced by Estevan and Esperanza and the abuse inflicted on Turtle. Her sympathetic reaction to the difficulties of others reveals Taylor’s tenderheartedness. Taylor cares for the abandoned and the exiled with increasing enthusiasm as the novel progresses. Mattie calls her a hero for risking her own safety in order to achieve a more just society. In some ways, Taylor is an archetypal hero: she leaves her home and family, descends into darkness, and reemerges to accomplish some good for the sake of her society. She also functions as Esperanza’s comedic counterpart. Whereas tragedy permanently enshrouds Esperanza’s life, Taylor has a chance to hold on to her daughter and her happiness. Unlike traditional female heroines, Taylor’s adventures do not revolve around finding or keeping a man. Her life focuses instead on females—primarily on Turtle, but also on her mother, her friend, and her mentor. The male-female love she experiences remains purely platonic.