Though her family suspects she is shallow and empty-headed, Mashah is instead simply a lover of beauty. She buys paper flowers, makes a special trip to listen to the free music in the park, and lavishes attention on her face and figure simply because they are some of the few reliable sources of beauty available to her in her impoverished life. Sara says early in the book that Mashah seems to feed off her beauty the way other people feed off food, and the time she puts into keeping herself attractive is simply a way of keeping her food supply strong. She is first drawn to her great love, Jacob Novak, through the beautiful music he produces. She responds to that love by spreading beauty as far as she can: the house becomes cleaner and more organized, the table has fresh flowers, and the joy on her face brings light to all who know her. She puts so much effort into creating beauty for Jacob’s sake that when he leaves, her belief in beauty itself is crushed. Her spirit slowly drains away. She still keeps herself looking nice, but there is no longer any heart behind it.