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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
The novel follows the experiences of Marietta "Missy" Greer as she leaves her childhood home, Pittman, Kentucky. Unlike many of her peers, she has avoided pregnancy and is getting away. She heads west with a barely functioning Volkswagen Bug, determined to change her name according to the first place she has to stop. She ends up in Taylorville. Now Taylor Greer, she drives through the Cherokee Nation area of Oklahoma and her car breaks down. Here an abused, abandoned baby girl is unloaded upon her. She names the child Turtle because of the babyís unrelenting grip.
Taylor and Turtle drive on together. Challenged with unexpected motherhood and two flat tires, Taylor arrives at Jesus Is Lord Used Tires in Tucson, Arizona. The tire shop is run by a woman named Mattie, and doubles as a safe house for Central American refugees. Mattie gives Taylor moral support and a job. Taylor learns that her own troubles are small compared to those of Estevan and Esperanza, a couple who have had to give up their daughter and are fleeing from both Guatemalan death squadrons and the I.N.S.
As the result of a newspaper ad looking for a roommate, Taylor now lives with Lou Ann Ruiz and her baby boy. Lou Annís husband has left her and Lou Ann is without any confidence or self-esteem. Coincidentally, Lou Ann is from the same area of Kentucky as Taylor. The two find comfort in each otherís spirited, down home Kentucky dialect and share the burdens of new motherhood.
Taylorís relationship with Turtle grows. Her relationships with Mattie, Estevan and Esperanza also grow. The story climaxes as Taylor risks her own safety to transport Estevan and Esperanza to a church/safe house in Oklahoma. While there, Estevan and Esperanza pose as Turtleís parents to allow Taylor to legally adopt the child. The struggles of the human condition are resolved for the time being in the lives of those Taylor has touched. Taylor discovers a new appreciation for everyday miracles and a new definition for family.