Adah is now in medical school. There, she meets a classmate who tells her that her hemiplegia shouldn’t impair her mobility any longer—in other words, her limp and poor motor control are just habits, not necessary side effects of her medical condition. Adah is at first reluctant to believe this, but after many months of physical training, she begins to regain full control of her arms and legs.
It’s symbolic that Adah’s limited mobility was just a force of habit after so many years: perhaps this connects to the self-inflicted misery that so many women suffer under in sexist social and political structures—developing inferiority complexes that linger on even when male oppressors disappear.
Adah also reports that Leah is living in Atlanta with Anatole and their son Pascal (Adah’s nephew). Adah greatly admires Anatole—they share a skepticism of American society, a distrust of parents, and a deep sense of loneliness. It occurs to Adah that everyone needs a religion. Orleanna’s religion has become the Civil Rights Movement—she bravely marches on behalf of African Americans. Leah’s religion is suffering, Adah believes. Rachel’s religion, perhaps, is her own appearance.
It’s a mark of how bad things have become in the Congo that even Leah and Anatole—who seemed totally committed to the Lumumba movement—have left altogether. It’s also interesting that Orleanna has become so involved in the Civil Rights movement. Here Adah presents the idea that all the Price women have replaced Nathan’s rigid Christianity with new systems of belief, as they all still seek order and meaning in their lives.
Adah admits that she rarely sees Leah and Anatole, since she’s busy with medical school. She works in a hospital, delivering babies. She often thinks about how Orleanna left her behind on the night that the ants crawled through Kilanga. Once, she asked Orleanna, point-blank, why she took her to Leopoldville instead of Leah. Orleanna replied, “you were my youngest, Adah—a mother takes care of her children from the bottom up.” Adah doesn’t believe this for a second, though. She thinks Orleanna “chose” to take her because she needed Adah the most.
This is a difficult passage, and Kingsolver leaves it up to the reader to decide who’s telling the truth. Orleanna’s account of why she chose Adah is consistent with her behavior elsewhere in this book, but it’s perhaps a little simplistic. By the same token, Adah’s claim that Orleanna simply needed her more has some truth to it (Adah is seemingly the most practical and intelligent daughter) but also seems a little egocentric. There is no “correct” opinion here, just a multiplicity of voices.