Oh, you’re a Xhosa,” he said. “That explains it. Climbing into strange men’s cars. Disgusting woman.

The Zulu minibus driver in Chapter 1 presents a direct threat to Patricia’s survival. Being a woman in South Africa can turn something as straightforward as finding a ride home from church into a life-or-death situation, so it is likely that this is not the first time that she has encountered physical danger. Once the driver establishes the tribal barrier between them, it is clear that he no longer sees Patricia and Trevor as fellow humans.

Patricia is a fighter, but she also knows when to flee. Her quick wittedness allows her to ascertain that this man is a bigger danger to her and her children than any injuries they might sustain during their escape, and her calmness allows her to find the right time to push her son out the door.

I’m not laughing because it’s funny. I’m laughing out of relief. I thought you’d been beaten up. I thought this was blood. I’m laughing because it’s only mulberry juice.

Along with her faith, Patricia’s sense of humor is one of her many survival mechanisms. When Trevor comes home from the mulberry tree covered in juice in Chapter 9, she immediately jumps to the worst conclusion. After all, it is not uncommon for kids to get beat up and bloodied in their neighborhood. Once she realizes that Trevor is only in emotional pain, Patricia is able to move on quickly and encourage Trevor to do likewise. When Abel returns, Patricia tells Trevor not to tell him what happened. She knows that Abel’s survival mechanism is violence.

Lady, are you not listening to me? This is my mother’s life. This is her life. Take the money. Take all of it. I don’t care.

In Chapter 18, when Abel shoots Patricia in the head, the reader worries along with Trevor that this is the one time that his mother’s survival skills will not help her. He is terrified for her survival, and once the nurse tells him that they will transfer her to a state hospital because she has no insurance, Trevor insists that he will take on the responsibility for her medical bills. At this moment, Trevor cares nothing for his future or his financial stability. The only thing he can hope for is for his mother to live, no matter the cost.