This section contains 2,148 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
Mai does the lion’s share of the speaking and eating (I give her my cone once I’ve had enough), and all I know for certain, with the sun on our faces and the sweet ice cream holding our attention, is that this is a day that I will never forget.
-- Willow (Chapter 1 paragraph 23)
Importance: Ironically, Willow did not know that her parents had just been killed in a traffic accident when she said it was a day she would never forget. Though she thought at the time it was a great day because she had finally found a friend, she would later try to block the memory of the day from her mind.
On the 7th day of the 7th month (is it any wonder I love the number?) my new parents drove north to a hospital 257 miles from their home, where they named me after a cold-climate tree and changed the world.
-- Willow (Chapter 2 paragraph 21)
Importance: In this quote, Willow describes the day her parents adopted her as well as the basis for her love of the number 7.
Besides the number 7, I have two other major obsessions. Medical conditions. And plants.
-- Willow (Chapter 2 paragraph 41)
Importance: It is Willow’s obsession with plants that helps her to understand the world around her. Much of her coming to grips with her new life after her parents are killed is done through her connection with her plants.
It’s possible that all labels are curses. Unless they are on cleaning products.
-- Willow (Chapter 2 paragraph 72)
Importance: It is after Willow is first labeled as being extremely gifted that she first decides that labeling a person is synonymous with cursing them. She believes no one label can adequately describe a person, as each person is made of such a mix of emotions, talents, abilities and failings.
And then on the afternoon that Willow Chance came to see him, all of his categorization ground to a halt, like a fork thrown into the gears of outdated machinery.
-- Narrator (Chapter 5 paragraph 93)
Importance: Even though Dell’s categorization had worked for him in the past, he is unable to quickly file Willow into a slot as he was able to do with most other students. It is at this point that he begins to realize that his system has shortfalls.
He needed to put her in a category of Strange as soon as possible so that he could disconnect from whatever was happening in the room.
-- Narrator (Chapter 7 paragraph 12)
Importance: Dell feels motivated by Willow but at the same time, he fears developing a bond or connection with her. He feels that he must put her into a category so that he can avoid becoming too involved in her case.
It was there, in the small, stuffy trailer on the edge of the baking-hot blacktop of the Bakersfield school district parking lot, that I found an older girl who was disappointing only in her failure to speak the language of the mostly obliterated Cahuilla people. / I found Mai Nguyen.
-- Willow (Chapter 10 paragraph 5)
Importance: Willow is fascinated by Mai Nguyen like she is fascinated by few other people. This initial fascination turns into a friendship between the two girls.
This was Dell’s attempt to please me. To bond. He brought in his cat. It was strange, but right then in that room, what wasn’t?
-- Willow (Chapter 10 paragraph 13)
Importance: Willow believes Dell has brought his cat to her therapy session in an attempt to bond with her. She sees the act both as strange and kind.
I was not pretending to be anyone but myself, and they still accepted me into their troop. / I felt human. / That was the only way I could describe it.
-- Willow (Chapter 10 paragraph 37)
Importance: When she helps Mai and Quang-ha make fliers to help find what they believe is Dell’s cat, she feels as if she is part of a group for the first time. Before this time other children had treated her as a weirdo so she had retreated into her mind and her garden.
She moved closer and she saw that the book was from the Bakersfield public library and it was called Understanding Vietnamese Customs and Traditions. / And that was when Mai knew that Willow was coming with her.
-- Narrator (Chapter 18 paragraph 10)
Importance: When Mai sees the effort that Willow has made in trying to learn about Mai’s culture, shown by checking out and reading the library book about the Vietnamese culture, Mai decides that she needs to take Willow under her wing.
Her eyes focused on a version of her own young self, and so many other children in Vietnam who grew up without parents, some abandoned because of their ethnicity, others because of tragedy.
-- Narrator (Chapter 19 paragraph 32)
Importance: When Pattie first sees Willow sitting in the back seat of Dell’s car, she sees herself, as she had been a child without parents. For this reason, Pattie is able to empathize with Willow’s grief.
If you analyze the odds of being given away at birth and then losing another full set of legal guardians 147 months and 7 days later, I’m right on the edge of the graph.
-- Willow (Chapter 22 paragraph 10)
Importance: In her introspective mind, Willow calculates the odds of being orphaned twice before even becoming a teenager. She realizes that her situation is quite out of the ordinary.
I admire that in a person. The ability to keep your mouth shut is usually a sign of intelligence. Introspection requires you to think and analyze. It’s hard to do that when you are blabbing away.
-- Willow (Chapter 22 paragraph 55)
Importance: One of the first things that Willow notices about Pattie is her ability to be quiet, even when it seems it might be more appropriate for her to say something. Willow admires this quality in her new mother-figure, as she believes it is a sign of intelligence.
He felt a wave of anger roll over him. If someone did this girl wrong, they would have him to deal with.
-- Narrator (Chapter 24 paragraph 13)
Importance: When Willow calls for Jairo to come pick her up after the runs away from the hospital, he is angry when he sees her because he believes someone might have intentionally physically hurt her. This reaction to the girl indicates that Jairo has already begun to care for this odd child whom he later refers to as his angel.
I will help find a good place for you. I will not let them take you until we do. You have my word. You will stay here until we have the answer.
-- Pattie (Chapter 28 paragraph 145)
Importance: Just a few days after the death of Willow’s parents, Pattie promises Willow that she will stay with them until a good place has been found for her. Although Pattie has told Mai that they cannot afford to take Willow in permanently, it is apparent that Pattie has developed an affection for the child.
Somehow, he’d been caught up in so many layers of deception: Willow Chance wasn’t a cheater. Pattie Nguyen wasn’t an old family friend. The Nguyens didn’t live in the Gardens of Glenwood. (Why couldn’t they use their own address?) He didn’t homeschool her (like he was supposed to do).
-- Narrator (Chapter 30 paragraph 18)
Importance: Dell stresses because he has been caught in the middle of an unusual situation since he’s met Willow. He knows she isn’t a cheater, as her teacher thought, but hasn’t told anyone what he knows. He also knows that Pattie is lying about being an old family friend of Willow and her parents. He’s also been pushed by Pattie into putting his address on the children’s services paperwork and lying about homeschooling Willow. Although he doesn’t like the lies he’s telling, he doesn’t come clean because he knows the truth would be bad for Willow.
I know that I’ve been nothing but a problem. I’ve tried to be invisible, but just my presence here has changed the dynamic of the situation.
-- Willow (Chapter 31 paragraph 43)
Importance: Willow seems to believe that she has made things worse for Dell, Mai, Pattie and Quang-ha just by being part of their lives. Although she tries to lie low and not cause problems, she feels she is in the way and interrupting their way of life.
There was as much of a lesson in that, Willow had explained, as in anything she had been told by anyone about life or death or the stages in between.
-- Willow (Chapter 33 paragraph 21)
Importance: As Mai sits at the bus stop and looks at a rose bush, she remembers Willow teaching her about the life cycle of these flowers. The plants came from the soil and eventually returned to the soil, like everything else that exists.
And I’m forced to admit that being in a room with a teenage boy who appreciates the effect of shattered glass slices of color makes me feel better about the world.
-- Willow (Chapter 34 paragraph 93)
Importance: Putting together the glass collage on Dell’s skylight is one of the first activities that seem to bond Quang-ha and Willow.
But until this moment I hadn’t realized that he’s a really caring person.
-- Willow (Chapter 40 paragraph 51)
Importance: After Dell gets Willow not only the one packet of sunflower seeds for which she asked, but 24 packs of seeds because he didn’t know what kind she’d like best, Willow realizes that despite Dell’s physical and emotional clumsiness, he really cared for her.
I’m not sure it will function properly, but if it does, the computer will be a gift to Dell from me.
-- Willow (Chapter 42 paragraph 39)
Importance: To thank Dell for the things he’s done for her, Willow uses her computer knowledge to piece together three non-working computers into a working machine as a gift.
He was changing. He was capable of that.
-- Narrator (Chapter 44 paragraph 54)
Importance: In his own system of classification Dell creates a category for himself. He refers to himself as a mutant because he is learning that he is capable of positive change.
Right now I’m the sunflower. Temporary, but attaching myself to the ground underneath me.
-- Willow (Chapter 50 paragraph 75)
Importance: Even before her parents died, Willow learned to interpret life through her backyard garden. Here she compares herself to one of the sunflowers she and the others have grown in the apartment courtyard. Even though she knows it won’t last forever, Willow is thriving and growing in the atmosphere provided by the strange family that has stepped up to take care of her.
I have to piece together the sequence of events, and when I get to the bottom of it, I believe that the plant loss is not just a defeat; it’s a sign. I’m not really going to live at the Gardens of Glenwood for much longer.
-- Willow (Chapter 53 paragraph 23)
Importance: Signs are important to many of the characters in the novel. Willow is one who seems to interpret things that happen in her life as being signs of what is coming. In this case she believes the loss of the plants she was starting for her garden is a sign that she, also, will be leaving the Gardens of Glenwood soon.
Even if he wanted to (and he didn’t really, did he?), he had debt and barely any job security and he’d never even been able to follow through on getting his coffee card stamped correctly at the little place where he sometimes got a morning cup of hot brew.
-- Narrator (Chapter 54 paragraph 23)
Importance: Even though Dell cares deeply about Willow, he tries to talk himself out of his desire to try to serve as her guardian by making excuses for himself.
I did not say good-bye to my mom or my dad. I never got to do that. They were here and then they were gone. Does saying good-bye matter? Does it really end something? I didn’t hug them that morning when I left to go to school. That’s why I don’t want to go back there. I can handle the other kids and the teachers and everything about it but the memory. I can’t be in that place, because every time I allow myself to think about my last day there, I fall apart.
-- Willow (Chapter 57 paragraph 80)
Importance: Willow finally tells in this quote why it is she doesn’t want to go back to school. It isn’t the other kids or even the teachers although they gave her a hard time before because she is strange. Willow doesn’t want to go back to school because it reminds her that she never said goodbye to her parents before she went to school on the day of the accident.
If the last few months have proven anything, it’s that I don’t need more theory, but rather more experience with reality.
-- Willow (Chapter 58 paragraph 124)
Importance: In the courthouse bathroom Willow examines herself in a mirror before she is to see the judge. She thinks about her parents and wonders it they were too busy looking after her to take care of themselves. Even as she theorizes about the reason they died and what they might have been able to do to avoid their death, Willow finally comes to the realization that theory does not take the place of, or change, the reality of things.
This section contains 2,148 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)