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Taylor Greer is the key protagonist and the most developed character of the novel. She is the narrator, thus the reader sees everything from her angle. She struggles through lifeís challenges and by the end of the novel discovers a new meaning for "family" and gains the ability to appreciate each dayís miracles.
There is no true antagonist, no one character that plays the villain in the novel. Different situations cause conflict with the protagonist. The antagonist is the human condition. Taylorís personality conflicts with her small town Kentucky background so she heads west.
The sudden appearance of a child in her life causes repeated conflict, as Taylor is noncommittal about the relationship. She has conflict with Lou Ann who is Taylorís opposite in terms of strength and independence. She falls in love with Estevan who is married and a refugee causing personal and political conflict. The real conflict is Taylorís struggle to control her life and resolve these situations.
The climax occurs when Taylor takes a stand on her relationship with Turtle and her feelings for Estevan. She risks her own safety to secure the adoption of Turtle and to transport Estevan and Esperanza to a safe house.
Although the characters feel lifeís struggle, all of their difficulties are resolved somehow through Taylor. Lou Ann gains confidence and security in her life, Estevan and Esperanza are safely transported, and Taylor becomes the sole guardian and parent of Turtle.