The novel explores multiple human connections: between lovers from different lands; between Americans via language, law and culture; between Vietnamese immigrants in a small Illinois town via language and culture.
For both groups, Butler illustrates connections between people and land.
Quentin and June Forbes, the American couple that wishes to befriend Cliff and Lanh, are well versed in archaeology and Native American civilizations.
They own several ancient Indian artifacts which they have found at sites they have explored. In attempting to involve Lanh in conversation at the Forbes's home, Cliff prompts her to explain that, for centuries, Vietnamese farmers have been buried in the fields they have tilled all their lives. So, in both countries, aspects of the terrain link the present with the past.
The love relationship is closely tied to sexual passion. In bursts of insecurity, Lanh derides herself as having undesirable physical attributes...