Summary—Chapter Two: New Year’s Pig

The narrative voice shifts from Taylor to that of an anonymous, omniscient narrator who introduces us to Lou Ann Ruiz, a Kentuckian living in Tucson, Arizona. Lou Ann is pregnant, and as the chapter opens, her husband, Angel, has just left her. Three years earlier, Angel lost the lower half of his leg in a car accident. When Lou Ann got pregnant, she stopped having sex with him. Convinced that his amputation repulsed Lou Ann, Angel accused her of wanting to sleep with other people. Lou Ann feels that Angel no longer likes her or anyone else.

The narrator describes Halloween, the day on which Angel leaves Lou Ann. Lou Ann goes to the doctor and, while in the waiting room, hopes that her child will not be born on Christmas. She has negative associations with the day, since Angel lost his leg on Christmas. Moreover, she does not want her baby to feel robbed of his own special birthday, which he might if it fell on a holiday. The doctor informs Lou Ann that she must lose weight. She takes the bus home, enjoying the novelty of personal space. Because of her pregnancy, men no longer make suggestive remarks or brush up against her. She gets off the bus and walks past Jesus Is Lord Used Tires, a store featuring a large painted mural of Jesus with a tire dangling below him. Next to the tire store is Fanny Heaven, a nightclub and pornography shop. Lou Ann stops at Lee Sing Market to buy diet food. Lee Sing, the owner, predicts Lou Ann will have a girl. Lee Sing says having a girl is like feeding the neighbor’s New Year pig—all your care goes into something that will end up with another family. Offended, Lou Ann thinks that even though she proved Lee Sing right by leaving her native Kentucky, her brother also left.

At home, Lou Ann realizes that Angel has left her. She observes what he left behind and what he took with him, and she thinks that his choices reveal more about him than she learned in nearly five years of marriage. He took beer mugs, a picture of himself at the rodeo, and the television, but he left behind all the kitchen things and sheets and blankets. Children come to her door and for a moment frighten her until she remembers it is Halloween. When Lou Ann goes to bed, her feet are so swollen she cannot get her shoes off. She weeps.

Summary—Chapter Three: Jesus Is Lord Used Tires

Taylor stays through Christmas at the hotel in Oklahoma, helping Mrs. Hoge with the chores and earning a little money. She has named the baby Turtle because of its firm grip. Around New Year’s Day, Taylor and Turtle leave the hotel and start driving. When they reach Arizona, the topography and sky seem so surreal to Taylor that she decides to stay there. It begins to hail, and Taylor pulls off the highway in Tucson. A man points out that she has two flat tires. A few blocks down the road, Taylor finds Jesus Is Lord Used Tires. There she meets Mattie, the kind older woman who runs the place. Mattie tells Taylor that Taylor’s two back tires are shot. Taylor cannot afford new ones. To cheer up Taylor, Mattie invites her and Turtle inside and gives Taylor coffee and Turtle apple juice and crackers. Mattie drinks from a mug decorated with pictures of rabbits having sex, and Taylor puzzles over this lack of prudery in someone who owns a shop called Jesus Is Lord Used Tires. Mattie explains that she and her late husband opened the place and that he was a fanatical Christian. A priest stops by. An Indian family sits in his station wagon. He seems nervous and leaves quickly.

Taylor marvels at Mattie, this woman who understands cars and runs her own business, and thinks that in her hometown such a woman would be scorned and ignored. Mattie takes Taylor and Turtle out to the back of the house, where they see her amazing and unusual garden, which is filled with flowers, vegetables, and car parts, including an entire Thunderbird minus the wheels. Mattie shows Taylor her purple beans, the seeds of which she received from the Chinese woman next door, who vows they are descendants of seeds she brought from China in 1907.

Tucson feels like a foreign country to Taylor, and the city seems years ahead of Kentucky. She and Turtle stay in the cheap Hotel Republic downtown. One day she ventures into a museum filled with modern, nonrepresentational sculptures made of sand. Another day, she asks about a job at the hospital, but she is turned away. She meets a friendly woman named Sandi who works at Burger Derby and has a baby boy. Sandi loves the Kentucky Derby, and it thrills her that Taylor comes from Kentucky.