Christine is remarkable for the dramatic differences between her inner self and the self she presents to those around her. In the eyes of her daughter, Rayona, Christine appears to be irrational and irresponsible—hardly the attributes of an ideal mother. But when Christine has the opportunity to tell her story, her behavior becomes more understandable. Christine’s main problem in relationships with others, especially with Rayona, is her inability to translate her feelings into actions. This weakness naturally causes problems between Christine and Rayona, as Rayona tends to judge others based solely upon their actions.
Christine passes through a number of different stages and personalities in her life. She is first bold and brave, then deeply religious, and finally reckless. This irresponsibility continues even after Rayona is born: Christine takes her child to bars when she cannot find a babysitter. Because Christine does not makes a transition from being the life of the party to being a mother, she cannot fulfill the role that Rayona imagines a mother should. It is not until she knows she is dying that Christine really begins to act like a mother, after she realizes that Rayona will be all that is left of her life once she is gone.
Christine is the bridge between old and new in the novel. She is responsible for Rayona’s knowledge of the world, but her own misunderstandings are compounded as they are passed on to her daughter. She is connected both to the city and to the reservation, and both places shape her personality. She represents a transition from old to new, during the difficult period when old problems have yet to fully heal but new ones are already beginning.