Taylor Greer is the main character of this novel. Taylor manages to stay in high school and graduate without getting pregnant like many of the other women in her school. Taylor stays out of trouble, and manages to work at a hospital and buys a Volkswagen bug. About five years after graduation Taylor decides to leave her small town to see what life has to offer her.
Taylor’s car ends up breaking down in the middle of the Cherokee Nation on Oklahoma. While Taylor is getting ready to leave a woman goes up to Taylor and gives her a baby telling her to take it. Taylor drives off with the child and later discovers that the child had been abused and sexually molested. She calls the child turtle, because the girl’s tendency to grab objects and people. Later Taylor and Turtle make it Tucson, Arizona where both of Taylors back tires blow out. Taylor goes to a tire shop named, “Jesus Is Lord Used Tires.”
There Taylor finds a job at Burger Derby, shortly after Taylor quits her job. A month or so later after Taylor meets Lou Ann, Mattie, and her two friends she takes Turtle to a doctor. There the doctor find out that turtle is actually three years old. Her growth had been stunted because she was abused. That same day Lou Ann tells Taylor she is leaving for ever. Later when things start cooling down, Mattie takes Taylor and two other friends out to the desert to see the first summer rain. Turtle is left with a blind baby sitter named Edna Poppy.
Edna takes Turtle to the park where someone tries to kidnap Turtle. When the police investigate and find out that Taylor is not a legal guardian of Turtle. Taylor goes back to The Indian reserve to try to find Turtle’s parents so she can legally adopt Turtle. Turtle’s parents are nowhere to be found. Taylor concocts a plan to convince the authorities that her two friends that actually lost a child are Turtle’s parents, Esperanza and Estevan. They go to the office of the legal authority in Oklahoma, where they pretend to be Turtle’s biological parents. Esperanza sobs real tears because the loss of her actual child. The authorities give them Turtle. This book had many symbolic meanings about motherhood, life, death, and friendship.