We laughed about all the kids who believed in the Santa myth and got nothing for Christmas but a bunch of cheap plastic toys. “Years from now, when all the junk they got is broken and long forgotten,” Dad said, “you’ll still have your stars.”

One of the beautiful aspects of Jeannette’s relationship with her father is the sense of curiosity, adventure, and appreciation that he passes down to her. Before Rex succumbs to alcoholism, Jeannette’s childhood is unorthodox but not yet traumatic, and she loves the way that her father sees the world. While other children, and even her siblings to some extent, long for toys, Jeannette is satisfied by being gifted a star for Christmas. Other children’s fathers give them material things, but Jeannette’s father gives her the universe.

“That mountain lion had as much right to his life as that sour old biddy does to hers,” he said. “You can’t kill something just because it’s wild.”

Rex is enraged by a local Utah woman shooting a mountain lion that ventured onto her property. His strong feelings illustrate the appreciation that Rex has toward the natural world – Rex is awed by the vastness of the universe, and he’s never believed that humans are somehow superior to all other living beings. It’s also clear that Rex identified with the mountain lion. He is himself “wild,” and he loves his free-spirited, adventurous life. Rex despises how human society attempts to kill and dampen any wild or eccentric traits that people – and other animals – possess.

You know if it’s humanly possible, I’ll get it for you. And if it ain’t humanly possible, I’ll die trying.

This quote from Rex is both beautiful and tragic, because it illustrates how much he loves his daughter and the lengths he would go to please her, but it also foreshadows how he will ultimately fail to give Jeannette everything she needs. When Jeannette asks her father to give up alcohol, it’s difficult for him to hear, but he grants her wish and undergoes an arduous withdrawal period – nearly making true on his promise that he’d “die trying.” That Rex would immediately sober up in order to make his daughter happy shows the depth of his love for her and how much her opinion matters to him, and yet, it’s sadly not enough to keep him on the wagon forever. In the end, Rex returns to alcohol, and his substance abuse eventually destroys his body and leads to his premature death.