This scrap of paper in my hand makes me feel poor in a way like I just heard of rich. Jealous. What kind of a person would throw it away?

This passage is from Chapter 5, when Rayona finds the letter on the ground during her first day as a custodian at Bearpaw Lake. The picture of family life Rayona sees in the letter is an ideal one, with loving parents, a house with a lawn, and a pet. This vision is a far cry from Rayona’s family life, which is anything but conventional or happy. Rayona feels like neither of her parents wants her, and the contrast between her life and the one in the letter is what makes that world so enticing to Rayona. In the passage above, however, Rayona does not feel joyful upon discovering the letter, and while it reveals to her that she is “poor” it does not do anything to counteract her circumstances and make her “rich.” Therefore, even before we learn more about the letter, we can guess that it is doomed to fail as therapy, since it inspires envy without actually producing anything productive. Although she expresses some indignation that some children can be so lucky without appreciating it, Rayona does not realize the futility of envying the recipient of the letter when she first finds it, and the letter inspires more awe than anger. For a while, the letter becomes Rayona’s exit from her life, from which she can draw the feelings of worth and security that she would ordinarily get from her family. Only later, when she comes to accept her real family, can Rayona throw the letter away and acknowledge that for her, it serves no more purpose than a piece of garbage.