The novel makes reference to the issue of Native American parental rights. At least one reader, familiar with Native American adoption rights, thought that the sequel, Pigs in Heaven, was written to correct misconceptions in the first book by Barbara Kingsolver. Themes of love and nurturing emerge from the violence and poverty that the characters face. The book conveys multiple symbolic meanings about shared motherhood, life and death, and beauty. The underlying themes not always recognized include those about mockery toward the judicial system, the flawed coping strategies of current day issues, and the strength of friendship.
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