Near the New Mexico border, Taylor, Turtle, Estevan and Esperanza are stopped at an immigration check point. Mattie knew this might happen, so she had Estevan and Esperanza dress in bright colors and stereotypically American fashions, as well as leaving Esperanza’s hair down and free instead of braided. Taylor is nervous, but tries not to show it as she shows her ID to the officer at the checkpoint. The officer asks Taylor who Turtle’s parents are, and Taylor hesitates so Estevan jumps in and says that Turtle is his daughter. Taylor is upset by this, but acknowledges that it was the most logical answer.
Estevan and Esperanza’s American clothes are artificially bright, while the Guatemalan dress contained colors from natural dyes, suggesting that the couple’s Guatemalan identities are more natural (at least for them). Meanwhile, Estevan claims Turtle as his daughter, confirming the fact that American officials easily believe that Turtle and Estevan are blood relations simply because they have similar skin colors.
Taylor stops for lunch at Texas Canyon, a rock formation that she and Turtle had loved when they first came to Arizona. The rocks are stark, and Estevan comments that this is what the earth would have looked like if God had stopped creation early. They keep driving straight through the first night, planning to reach Oklahoma on the second night.
The Texas Canyon is beautiful to Taylor but foreboding to Estevan. This place seems completely void of human intervention, as untouched as the day that God made it. This is a blessing for Taylor, who longs to escape human society.
Taylor and Estevan talk as Taylor drives. Estevan tells Taylor about the quetzal bird that is the symbol of the Guatemalan Indians. Taylor feels as though she is driving home to Kentucky, and asks Estevan if he misses his home and his language. Estevan reveals that even Guatemala City was not his first home, and Spanish was not his first language.
The quetzal bird symbolizes the vulnerability of the Guatemalan Indians who are not safe in the new Guatemalan government, and are also endangered thanks to the deforestation of this country. Like the bird, Estevan seems more homesick for the rural mountains of Guatemala than his life in Guatemala City.
Taylor learns that Estevan and Esperanza actually speak dialects of Mayan, and that they chose the Spanish names “Estevan” and “Esperanza” only when they came to Guatemala City. Taylor tells them how she, too, chose a new name when she moved to Arizona.
Estevan and Esperanza’s search for home has actually been longer than it seemed. This backstory adds more poignancy to Esperanza’s name, as she chose to call herself “hope.” Taylor compares this to her own search for home.
As they continue talking, Taylor describes how her father abandoned her mother before she was born. Estevan tells Taylor that Esperanza also grew up without a father. Meanwhile, in the backseat, Esperanza sings traditional Mayan songs to Turtle until Turtle falls asleep on her lap.
While the novel has already established similarities between Esperanza and Turtle, it now highlights the similarities between Esperanza and Taylor. At the moment it seems like Esperanza is a better fit for Turtle’s mother, but these comparisons actually suggest that Taylor is just as good a choice for Turtle.
Taylor realizes that her picture of Guatemala as an endless exotic jungle is not the full story of the place and does not capture the hardships that the Guatemalan people face. She wonders aloud why everyone always tries to remove Indians from their own lands, and Estevan sighs that he hates how he never feels like he belongs anywhere. Thinking of the plight of her own Cherokee great-grandfather, Taylor tells Estevan that it is wrong to call any person “illegal.”
Sadly, the Guatemalan treatment of the Mayan people is similar to the American treatment of Native Americans. They are constantly pushed out of their homes to the land no one else wants. Furthermore, calling immigrants “illegals” negates their basic humanity. Estevan has to insist on both his humanity and his basic human rights.
The second night on the road, Taylor reaches the Broken Arrow motel where she worked during the month that she first found Turtle. The old woman who owned the hotel, Mrs. Hoge, has died and her daughter-in-law Irene lost hundreds of pounds to take on the business and get ready to have a baby of her own. After dinner, Irene tells Taylor that Mrs. Hoge wasn’t exactly kind, but she still misses the old woman.
The Broken Arrow is the first sign of major change in Oklahoma, as the places they left have changed just as much as Taylor and Turtle have themselves. Irene is coming to terms with the complex relationship she had with her mother-in-law. Now that Mrs. Hoge is gone, Irene understands how important that family bond was.
The next morning, Estevan and Esperanza stay with Taylor as she searches for Turtle’s family, instead of going straight to the new safe house. As she searches, Taylor notes that Estevan and Esperanza look like the local Native Americans here. Estevan comments that Cherokee and Mayan people do look different, but that white people certainly can’t tell. Taylor glances in the rearview mirror and thinks that Esperanza and Turtle look perfect as mother and child.
Estevan and Esperanza chose to stand by Taylor just as she is standing by them by bringing them to Oklahoma. Estevan’s comment about the difficulty of judging between Cherokee and Mayan features has already helped the group at the immigration checkpoint, and it will prove vital for Taylor and Turtle.
Estevan goes over the back story he has invented for “Steven and Hope” as Americans, but he still needs a new last name. Taylor suggests the “family name” Two-Two, after the mechanic who fixed her car in Oklahoma. The little group finally reaches the bar where Taylor found Turtle. Estevan and Esperanza, as well as Turtle, give Taylor a hug for luck, and Taylor goes into the bar alone.
Estevan and Esperanza’s new names help them belong to their new Oklahoma home. Taylor’s suggestion of “Two-Two” references Taylor’s first experience in Oklahoma, when she decided that Turtle was her family.
The bar has gotten significantly cleaner and nicer since Taylor was last there, and she discovers that the place has changed hands and no one who works there knows anything about the two men who were in the bar that night. Taylor decides to bring Estevan, Esperanza, and Turtle in for lunch while she thinks about what to do next.
While the new ownership of the bar is a good thing for family businesses in Oklahoma, it is a very bad thing for Taylor’s family. Taylor is happy that the bar is not as hostile as the first time that she went in there, but that change means that she has no chance of legally gaining custody.
As Taylor pays, she asks the waitress about Bob Two Two the mechanic, and learns that he moved to Oklahoma City. The waitress also tells Taylor that this bar isn’t actually Cherokee nation land. She shows Taylor postcards of lakes in the Cherokee nation, which Taylor finds beautiful, and tells Taylor that the Cherokee nation is less a place than a people.
All of Taylor’s thoughts about her Cherokee “homeland” were actually mistaken. Cherokee nation land is not the Oklahoma wasteland that Taylor hated; it is the natural beauty of Oklahoma lakes and the community of the Cherokee people. This definition of home matches Taylor’s: home is where the people you love are.
Totally unsure about what to do next, Taylor decides to go to Lake of the Cherokees and Estevan and Esperanza agree to accompany her again instead of going to the sanctuary house. Taylor calls it a vacation, the first vacation that any of them have ever had.
Taylor, Estevan, and Esperanza keep the family together a little longer, even taking their first “family” vacation. Due to their hard upbringings, any previous travel has been out of necessity rather than pleasure.