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Mother/daughter relationships are often a love/hate roller coaster for people of all cultures. It is especially difficult for Ida who isnít Christineís real mother but canít tell her so. The result is resentment, which she acknowledges she has "worn like a charm." It isnít even that she resents caring for Christine, but that she would prefer to actually be Christineís mother either physically or legally, and in reality, she is neither. Christine also bucks against her as if subconsciously, she knows she is different.
Christine goes overboard in giving to Rayona what she never had for herself. Consequently, she is as much a pal to her daughter as she is a mother. Rayona, however, does not take on the resentment of the other two. Instead she interprets both Ida and Christineís behavior as an indication that she simply isnít wanted. Having inherited the spirit of defiance and independence, Rayona thus attempt to take on life alone.
The Quest or journey and return
The movement in many American Indian novels has been described as circular, the events returning to the same point at which they began. Another critic has described the structure of many Indian novels in general as similar to an onion. The novel is composed of several different stories, each story a layer on the onion. As each story is "peeled" off, the reader comes closer to motivation for that particular group of stories, discovering, in the process, the relationships among all the stories. Looking at a novel in this light has the advantage of changing our expectations. We arenít waiting for a single protagonist to emerge as some sort of overcoming hero or heroine, but rather are looking for the reason for the act of story telling itself. Thus, Rayonaís story begins with her motherís illness-which Rayona has not yet accepted-and returns to reservation where her mother will die.