Rachel is now fifty years old, and still running her hotel, the Equatorial. Sometimes, she can’t help but think about the life she would have had if she lived in the U.S. She would have grown up slower, she thinks—certainly there’s no way she would have ended up the owner of a major hotel in her early twenties.
In one way, Rachel’s superficiality and cynicism is a blessing: unlike the other Prices, she’s not haunted by the scars of her past life. In this chapter, Kingsolver will delve a little deeper into Rachel’s psychology to test whether she’s truly any better-off than her siblings.
In spite of her doubts about life in the U.S., Rachel decides to move back to America. She’s nervous about returning home, and thinks of the Vietnam veterans who returned from war to find the country full of hippies. She also notes that her marriage to Axelroot has given her “female problems” and made her unable to have children.
Rachel, we see, has scars of her own—far more literal ones than Orleanna or Leah, too. Her venereal disease is a symbol of the time in her life when she was wholly dependent on Axelroot to survive, and a time when she didn’t have any choice but to have sex with him. In this way, Rachel is carrying a constant reminder of the misogyny and abuse she endured in both America and Africa.
Rachel takes stock of Africa—“you don’t have to like it, but you sure have to admit it’s out there.” She offers “advice”—let other people do the hard work, and just “ride along.” This is the best way to survive, especially in a “non-Christian kind of place” like Africa.
In the end, Rachel comes to a rather depressing conclusion: the only purpose of life is to survive and take care of yourself. Rachel will never have children of her own, thanks to Axelroot, so nothing she does will ever challenge her worldview. This is a rather depressing way to end Rachel’s story: she’s always been selfish, and she still is at the age of 50.