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Patricia is Trevor’s strict, demanding, faithful, and loving mother. All of the major characters in this book have contradictory aspects of their personalities and are able to pivot in extreme circumstances, perhaps none more so than Patricia. Her Xhosa name means “She who gives back,” and Patricia proves to be generous many times throughout the book. She gives faith to God, gives an education and protection to her son, gives money to her parents, and gives endless personal and financial resources to her abusive husband.
Before Patricia gives back, however, she takes what she needs for herself. She works constantly to find loopholes in the system so that she can live and work where she pleases. Once she attains a goal, she begins working on the next one. Even Trevor only exists because she set a goal for herself to have a child and negotiated with Robert until he gave her one. Although she knew the risks of having a mixed-race child under apartheid laws, these actions do not reveal her to be selfish. She selected the one man she trusted, and then proceeded to work every day to protect her son and provide him with the tools she felt he would need to survive and become a man.
Patricia’s adaptability is most evident in the way that she parents Trevor. She never agrees with Trevor’s opinion when they debate theology, but she does listen to him and encourages him to have his own point of view on other topics. When Patricia disagrees with his stance on issues that are beyond theoretical, such as her relationship with her husband, she shares her reasoning with him yet does not budge. She leaves Trevor to fend for himself when she thinks that he will learn from it, but when he is in serious danger she immediately comes to his aid.