Back in Kentucky, Alice is worried she might have seen Taylor and Turtle on the morning news, in a story about someone falling off the Hoover Dam. While she is cleaning her kitchen cupboards, her thoughts wander to her first marriage. Foster Greer could never hold down a job, and never settled down. He never wanted Alice pregnant, and when Taylor came along, Alice traded him in for her new daughter.

When Alice cannot wait any longer, she calls Tucson. Jax, Taylor's boyfriend, answers the phone. Jax has not heard any news from Taylor, but points out that she would never let Turtle fall off anything bigger than a washing machine. Alice likes talking to Jax, and eventually tells him she thinks she will leave her husband. He invites her to come live with them in Tucson. Jax also tells Alice he is worried Taylor does not love him. Alice replies that it is her own fault that Taylor does not give men the benefit of the doubt. Women who make their way alone seem to run in the family.


The novel begins with the sentence, "Women on their own run in Alice's family," and this statement provides an insight into one of the book's most important themes—gender and womanhood. Alice is the mother of the main character of the book, Taylor, and thus the grandmother of Taylor's daughter. This statement anticipates the way Kingsolver will develop these three characters over the course of the novel. More specifically, this statement also anticipates Taylor's introduction to the book. Before her name is even mentioned, we are expecting to meet a strong-willed, independent-minded woman.

The first chapter as a whole establishes the idea of women's space, suggesting a kind of world where women make decisions independent of male influences. Alice thinks of her garden in the morning as a "pitiful, festive" land in which she is queen. Alice's thoughts suggest to the reader that she will find intimacy and community not with another husband, or any man, but with the women in her life. She keeps wishing she could call her daughter, to ward off the feeling that she is the last woman on earth. Interestingly, Alice uses the word "woman" instead of saying the last "person" on earth. Her problem is not merely that she lacks companionship, but that she lacks female companionship specifically. Her daydream about her cousin Sugar again suggests that she feels a sense of bondage with women. She feels that Sugar is still in Heaven, Oklahoma, and that she could easily pick up a correspondence with her. To Alice, women are the ones who keep coming back, whose loyalty is strongest. Both Taylor and Sugar seem to be proof to Alice that she is not alone.

When Taylor enters the novel, she is also introduced in the absence of her significant other. Instead, she is introduced simultaneously with her daughter, suggesting the importance of her identification as a mother. As the chapter goes on, it becomes clear that Turtle is the center of Taylor's life, and that Jax, Taylor's boyfriend, is more or less, just a part of Taylor's life. The reader can connect Alice's thoughts about Taylor to Taylor's thoughts about Turtle. Already in the novel, both women exhibit the ferocity of a mother's love. Kingsolver also hints already that Turtle has not always been so well-protected.

In addition to introducing motherhood as a theme in the novel, this chapter also brings up the idea of luck or chance. The reader should note the way the word "luck" is used in the chapter. When Taylor and Turtle arrive at Hoover Dam, they visit the memorial for WPA men who died building the dam. Another visitor remarks that he is visiting monuments honoring the "unlucky." We should also note that many of these "unlucky" came from the Navajo reservation. The man who falls over the edge of the dam is named "Lucky" Buster, and his name takes on renewed meaning when Turtle sees him fall and she and Taylor pursue his rescue. This luck or fortune motif will be more apparent as the novel progresses.