Her house was not well built for she had never made one before, but it was cozy inside. She had windproofed it by sealing the sod bricks with mud from the pond at her door, and she had made it beautiful by spreading the caribou ground cloths on the floor. (1.27)
Miyax takes a stab at making a house, and the results aren't too shabby. She even tries to make it homey by arranging her things carefully. But this house is temporary; it won't last through winter, and therefore it can't really be a home.
Now it was Miyax's turn to say she was home. Patting the ground, circling first to the left and then to the right, she lay down and pulled her knees up to her chin. (1.187)
This home is temporary, too, but it's a bit closer to what we're looking for. After all, she feels safe and secure surrounded by her wolves.
There was Kapugen's little house of driftwood, not far from the beach. It was rosy-gray on the outside. Inside, it was gold-brown. Walrus tusks gleamed and drums, harpoons, and mans' knives decorated the walls. The sealskin kayak beside the door glowed as if the moon had been stretched across it and its graceful ribs shone black. Dark gold and soft brown were the old men who sat around Kapugen's camp stove and talked to him by day and night. (2.6)
Our Miyax certainly seems at home here. The description itself is lovely, and the beautiful memories make us sad that Miyax was ever forced to leave it.
As the months passed, the letters from Amy became the most important thing in Julie's life and the house in San Francisco grew more real than the house in Barrow. (2.96)
Perhaps she might find a home with Amy in San Francisco? Well, we're not holding out much hope, because – let's face it – these girls have never even met.
The little house in Barrow became home as Julie fitted into Nusan's routine, and summer was upon the land before she knew it. (2.113)
Another temporary home for Julie. This home is particularly tragic because Julie totally tries to make it work, despite the terrible situation. But in the end, our girl just can't fit in here, no matter how hard she tries.
At the top of her frost heave, she froze in her tracks. Her house was crushed in and her sleeping skins were torn and strewn over the grass. The meat she had laid out on the grass was gone. Her icebox was opened and empty. (3.6)
Here's a key lesson for our young heroine. Houses are surprisingly fragile. But as long as she has her tools, she can make a house just about anywhere. Will she be able to make a home so easily, wherever she winds up?
To amuse herself she thought of the hill where the white house stood in San Francisco. When it seemed almost real enough to touch, and very beautiful, it vanished abruptly; for the tundra was even more beautiful – a glistening gold, and its shadows were purple and blue. Lemon-yellow clouds sailed a green sky and every wind-tossed sedge was a silver thread. (3.54)
For so long, Miyax has been relying on her dream of Amy's house to keep her going. But for the first time, she realizes that she's got an even better set-up right here on the North Slope. Now that's an epiphany.
"The pink room is red with your blood," she said. "I cannot go there. But where can I go? Not back to Barrow and Daniel. Not back to Nunivak and Martha… and you cannot take care of me anymore." (3.166)
What a sad, sad moment. Amaroq's death has made her realize something awful: Miyax hardly belongs anywhere anymore.
The next day she took out her man's knife and cut blocks of snow. These she stacked and shaped into a house that was generously large. If she was going to live as the Eskimos once lived, she needed a home, not just a camp. (3.185)
Like her first sod house, this ice house is only temporary. But her intentions are much more permanent. This is the first time we see Miyax making the effort to stick things out on the tundra. She's trying to make her own home.
The big room was warm and smelled of skins and fat. Harpoons hung on the wall, and under the window was a long couch of furs. The kayak hung from the ceiling, and a little stove glowed in the center of the room. Kapugen's house in Kangik looked just like Kapugen's house in seal camp. She was home! (3.247)
Can you imagine how excited Miyax must feel to find her father alive, and in a house similar to the one she remembers from childhood? Pretty darn excited, right? That's what makes the shocking conclusion of the novel so tragic. As it turns out, Miyax isn't home at all.