When I stuck a plaited palm behind [a religious calendar] at the end of Lent I would realize the pages had not been turned and bring it up to date. Then I’d forget again. In my house, Christ was always being born or rising from the dead.
Here, in a passage in Ida’s narration in Chapter 20, we see how limited Ida’s involvement with religion has been, and how death and resurrection have a prominent role in the novel. Ida’s words, particularly the phrase, “Then I’d forget again,” emphasize how frequently the women in her family turn toward and then away from the church. It is interesting that Ida mentions the “plaited” palm she places behind the calendar at the end of Lent because the plait, a synonym of “braid,” is an image Dorris uses to represent the intertwining narratives of the novel itself. In the Christian faith, the palm is associated with death and resurrection, and so the image of a plait combined with the image of a palm frond could be read as a metaphor for the way the death and rebirth are always overlapping and intersecting over the course of the three generations. Death and rebirth in the novel appear both literally and as the the death and rebirth of the characters’ identities. The plaited palm is symbolic of all the forms of death that Ida, Christine, and Rayona experience over the course of their stories.