Hallie leaves the house she shared with her sister in Tucson, Arizona, and heads down to Chinendega, Nicaragua with a pickup truck and a pile of books on crop diseases to work in the cotton fields.
For the first time in their lives, Hallie is leaving Codi, instead of the other way around, and Codi's pretty devastated. She decides to leave Carlo, her skinny, emergency-room doctor boyfriend of ten years, whose best qualities seem to be workaholism and amaaaaazing eyebrows.
Codi's going to Grace, Arizona, the small desert town where she and Hallie grew up.
Codi and Carlo met in medical school—turns out Codi has most of a medical degree. She's just shy of doctor. That's a pretty versatile résumé line, apparently, since Codi's been everything from a convenience store clerk to a medical researcher. This time, she's leaving a sweet gig at 7-Eleven in order to teach high-school biology in Grace.
In the meantime, Codi's plan is to stay with her best friend from high-school, Emelina Domingos, because even if she plans to care for her father until his eventual death from dementia, she has no intention of living with that emotionally stunted old jerk.
Codi arrives in Grace, a town of peacocks and orchards.
Wait, peacocks? Yeah, the peacocks are pretty important. According to the local legend of Grace, the town was founded by "the nine blue-eyed Gracela sisters" who came from Spain to marry a bunch of miners in the nineteenth-century. The sisters brought their pet peacocks with them from Spain, and as Codi tells us, "their legacy in Gracela Canyon was a population of blue-eyed descendants and a thousand wild peacocks" (2.24).
Once Codi starts tromping through the orchards, things start to get grim: she sees a group of boys attacking a peacock with sticks. On the one hand, she's disgusted by their violence, while on the other hand, she's no hero (that's Hallie's job), so it takes a lot for Codi to tell the kids to stop it with the bird massacre.
Turns out it wasn't a bird at all: it was a piñata just like the ones that Codi herself had demolished as a child.
Wait, how come Codi can't remember stuff from her childhood?