Alice stretches her legs into the pale orange morning that is taking hold around her, and it dawns on her with a strange shock that she is still the person she was as a nine-year-old. Even her body is mostly unchanged. Her breasts are of a small, sound architecture and her waist is limber and strong; she feels like one of those California buildings designed for an earthquake. As surely as her organs are in the right places, she feels Sugar is still there in Heaven. She could write her today. She's kept feelings for Sugar, her long-lost relative who came home to her one day in the checkout line. Something like that is as bad or good as a telephone ringing in the night: either way, you're not as alone as you think.

These lines appear at the end of the first chapter, when Alice has wandered out into her garden in the middle of the night. Her marriage has failed to provide her warmth, and she daydreams about her best friend from her girlhood, Sugar. Many of the novels themes surface in this paragraph. The quote first introduces the gender theme that will be important as the novel progresses. When Alice dreams of a warmer, kinder place for herself, she thinks of Sugar, and not about another male companion. The reference to a telephone call also alludes to Alice's bond with Taylor, another woman in Alice's life. The call "in the middle of the night" could imply that Alice is thinking of Taylor, since they always are burdened by living in different time zones. Alice's feelings of aloneness also anticipate that the idea of community will be an important theme in the novel. Finally, the way Alice thinks about her body suggests her own personal journey that is to come. She imagines that her body feels the same as it did when she was a little girl. The image of Alice as a little girl suggests that she is metaphorically still just starting her life. She also feels her body is of "sound architecture," built like an earthquake-proof building. This kind of imagery suggests a great deal of inner strength. The strong body symbolizes the strength of mind and will lead Alice out of her lonely life to a new and better place.