Chapter 15 -17
The Lake o' the Cherokees is beautiful, and they rent a cottage for the night. Turtle had pointed out the window at a cemetery and said "Mama" during the drive. Now, again she says "Mama," this time after burying her doll. Taylor talks to her, asking if she saw her own mother get buried. Turtle says she did, and Taylor explains that, although her mother could not stay with her, she must have loved her very much. Taylor says she will try to make sure she is always there with Turtle. Then, she asks Estevan and Esperanza for a favor.
They go to the justice of the peace in Oklahoma so Taylor can adopt Turtle. Since white people cannot really tell the difference between a Mayan Indian and a Cherokee Indian, Estevan and Esperanza pretend to be Turtle's parents. They say that they are unable to care for Turtle and want to give her up to Taylor to raise. Because they are illegal immigrants, Estevan and Esperanza are taking a great risk doing this, but they want to help. The lack of a birth certificate is not an issue because children born on tribal land often do not have birth certificates.
Esperanza has really created a strong bond with Turtle. She misses her own daughter, Ismene, and so she has latched on to Turtle. In the justice's office, she claims to be saying goodbye to her daughter, and she cries and gets very upset. Her performance is convincing because this process is allowing her to say goodbye to Ismene, as well.
Taylor takes Esteban and Esperanza to the church that will be their sanctuary. She wakes up Turtle so she can say goodbye and understand that they left their friends in a good place. Taylor has a difficult time saying goodbye, too. Although she knows Esteban is not hers to have, saying goodbye is very difficult because she loves him.
Once they leave the church, Taylor calls her mother because she is heartbroken over Esteban. Then, she and Turtle talk about the fact that she is Turtle's mother now. While they are waiting to pick up the adoption papers, she calls Lou Ann. Lou Ann has given up on Angel and started dating someone, but she and Taylor know that they are each other's family now.
Taylor has come to realize that the world can be a pretty awful place. She cannot make it so that bad things don't happen to people. But, she does realize that they have all helped each other make things better. It is unfair that anyone should try to take Turtle from her, but Esteban and Esperanza help her find a way to keep the child. It is awful that they lost their daughter, but by helping her they have a chance to say goodbye to their child. They have not made things perfect in the world. However, as Esteban tells her, "in a world as wrong as this one, all we can do is to make things as right as we can" (233). They make things more right by helping and loving each other.
Taylor has created a family for herself. This family is based on strong bonds between women. Only when Lou Ann has a fortifying relationship with Taylor can she build a healthy love life. This is part of why Taylor realizes Esteban is off limits, as she would not hurt another woman for the sake of a man. The families built in this book are non-traditional: Turtle comes to be Taylor's in a strange and illegal way, Mattie's family of refugees keeps coming and going, and Taylor and Lou Ann are not traditional parents, as they are not romantically involved. Nonetheless, families based on love and mutual support are like the rhizobia that helps the wisteria grow: everyone benefits from helping one another.