Marietta Greer is a young woman who takes on a new name, Taylor, and a new life when she leaves her rural, poor Kentucky home to strike out independently by heading west in a beat up old car. She stops in a small town in Oklahoma to eat and to get gas. As she gets into her car a woman approaches and places a very young child in the seat next to Taylor imploring her to take the child. After trying to talk the woman out of this Taylor reasons that if a stranger is going to this extreme action that no good would come by trying to leave the child behind. Taylor struggles to decide what is the right thing to do. Should she should turn her over to authorities or keep her? She discovers the child has been abused and, for now, she continues westward, settling into life in Tucson, Arizona, where her tires give out. The child is still with her and has been nicknamed Turtle. Taylor struggles to survive financially but finds friendship, assistance, strength and guidance through people she meets and who, through their own challenges, help her to make her own decisions.
Even though this is a work of fiction it is sad to know that people really face the same problems these characters faced with varying degrees of success. I had a hard time with the storyline of how Turtle came to be with Taylor but, as the saying goes, "desperate times call for desperate measures". I did admire the fortitude and resilience of the several of the characters, not just Taylor. I was deeply moved by the issues of abuse, poverty, and social injustice. Unfortunately, these are the same things people endure today as when the book was written in 1988.