Han and Gifty are a couple. He was with her when her mother eventually died of old age, at home in her bed. They can hear the bells of the Episcopal church from their home in Princeton, NJ. Occasionally, Gifty stops there on her way home from the lab to sit with the image of Christ on the cross. Despite his intimate understanding of Gifty, her work, her family, and her past, Han can’t understand her trips to the church or her nostalgic listening for the sound of Christ’s knock on her heart.
Many years later, Gifty and Han are a couple, and readers learn that Gifty didn’t have to go through her mother’s final illness alone: Han was at her side. The fact that Han can never fully understand Gifty’s continuing fascination with religion shows that it’s possible to have an intimate relationship with someone who has different feelings and beliefs than oneself, and shows that Gifty has finally opened herself up enough to another person to have this kind of relationship. And while Gifty hasn’t recaptured her childhood faith, she still feels comfortable and at home in a religious setting.
Usually Gifty is alone with Bob, the maintenance man who asks about her research in a winking way that makes Gifty suspect he thinks she’s doing science fiction experiments like cloning aliens. But she’s interested in earthly things: mammals, proteins, and neurons. She has found enough “transcendence, holiness, redemption” in mice and people to satisfy her at last. As she watches Christ’s face, its expression changes from “angry to pained to joyful.” She doesn’t bow her head or pray or listen: she sits in silence, remembering, and working on making meaning of the jumble of her life.
Just like when she drove to San Francisco, praying and listening for God only to realize that she only heard the sound of her own voice, Gifty still seeks the transcendent but realizes that her sense of it is internal. In this way, her religious sensibility at this point in her life is closest to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s idea of “inscape,” which she learned about many years before in college. Gifty seems to have a sense of the divine and the transcendent in the world around her, and that is where she finds comfort and meaning, rather than in the specific rules and interpretations of Pentecostal (or even Episcopal) Christianity. Church is a place for her to listen for the wisdom and direction in herself, under the watchful if not omniscient eye of Christ depicted on the crucifix that decorates the sanctuary.