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When Blanca is about three years old, the family decides to spend a summer together in Tres Marias. The moment they arrive, Blanca meets Pedro Tercero Garcia, and they fall in love. Clara is incredibly happy in Tres Marias. For the first and only time in her life she becomes involved in earthly pursuits, devoting herself to teaching the workers and their families basic education, nutrition, and health care. She also tries to teach the women about gender inequality, but they realize that they cannot follow her advice. Esteban becomes enraged when he discovers her efforts with the women, but she simply ignores him and diffuses his anger.

At the end of the summer, Clara is so content in Tres Marias that they stay. Ferula is the only member of the family who is unhappy there. She begins to have nervous fits, but she refuses to leave because she does not want to be separated from Clara, the only person she ever truly loves in her life.

In the fall, an ant plague strikes Tres Marias. Esteban tries everything to rid the property of the ants, including bringing in Mr. Brown, a midget gringo "agricultural technician specializing in insecticides." After hearing that Mr. Brown's method will take months to succeed, too long a time to save Tres Marias, in desperation they go to Pedro Garcia, who successfully rids Tres Marias of the ants. Pedro Garcia shows them the way out—as he explains to Mr. Brown, all that was needed was to "[T]ell them to go, that they're a nuisance her. They understand."

At Tres Marias, Clara becomes pregnant again, and they must return to the city so that she can have access to appropriate medical attention. Clara has a difficult pregnancy during which she stops speaking. Esteban is not comfortable in the house in the city filled with women, but he feels that they need his male presence. Toward the end of her term, Clara begins speaking again to announce that she will have twins named Jaime and Nicolas. Esteban is furious that one of them will not be named after him, and in a rage he goes off to the best brothel in the city, the Christopher Columbus. There he re-encounters Transito Soto. Transito is happily working as an independent prostitute at the Christopher Columbus, with a reputation as the best woman they have. However, Transito still wants more independence. She and Esteban share not only great sexual appetites but also great ambition, and she tells him of her dream to open up a cooperative of "whores and fags".

A few days later, Severo and Nivea del Valle die in a car accident, in which Nivea's head is severed from her body. Everyone in the family tries to shelter Clara from the news because of her pregnancy. Clara finds out through her dreams and premonitions. Since rescuers were unable to locate Nivea's head, she is buried without it, another fact that everyone tries to hide from Clara. Clara also however knew about the severed head and is determined to find it. Ferula agrees to help her, and following Clara's instincts, they drive out to the location of the accident and recover the head, where hundreds of rescuers missed it. On the way home, Clara goes into labor and Ferula delivers the twin boys as soon as they arrive home. The two women do not tell anyone about having found Nivea's head, and they hide it in a hatbox. When They tell Esteban about it, he moves it to the basement.

Nana moves in with Clara and Esteban, and she and Ferula take care of the family, while Clara becomes intensely involved with the three Mora sisters and their eclectic group of spiritualist friends. She remains oblivious to the intense rivalry over her affection between Nana and Ferula, and much more importantly between Ferula and Esteban.