“Mary was a bright and shining star,” Mr. P said. “And then she faded year by year until you could barely see her anymore.”

Mr. P shares that Junior’s sister Mary was the most intelligent student he’d ever taught. Mary harbored secret ambitions of becoming a romance writer, and Mr. P believed she was talented enough to be successful as an author. But toward the end of Mary’s high school career, she simply stopped writing. She inherited both her father’s depression and penchant for alcohol, and she began spending most of her time in her family’s basement rather than working toward a better life or career. While it’s unclear what exactly triggered Mary’s depression or the abandonment of her dreams, Junior understands that Mary is struggling with the same deep sadness that many in their community share. Despite her intelligence and potential, her circumstances – like poverty and lack of support – suppressed her spirit.

She still can’t find a job, and she’s still living in that crappy little trailer. But she’s happy and working hard on her book.

Junior recognizes that, although his sister’s circumstances aren’t perfect, the most important thing is that she’s finally found freedom. Like him, she’s discovered a way to escape the reservation and live life on her own terms. She’s finally returned to working on the romance novels she once dreamt of writing when she was in high school. Mary faced a period of depression and stagnation, but she managed to pull herself out of it and follow her dreams again, and that fact alone is deserving of celebration.

It was courageous of her to leave the basement and move to Montana. She went searching for her dreams, and she didn't find them, but she made the attempt.

Despite the horrible circumstances of Mary’s death, Junior recognizes that his sister was brave to even try escaping the reservation. He sees that even her brief dalliance with freedom was something beautiful and worthwhile. Even in death, Mary remains a role model for her younger brother and spurs him to continue to take action in his own life. While Mary’s death shows him that escape doesn’t necessarily mean success, he understands that what’s most important is Mary’s attempt to live the life she wanted and deserved, and that this attempt is what he needs to do too, even if it ultimately ends in tragedy.