Lorena is a woman of dreams. Here's our first introduction to this beautiful whore with a heart of gold:
"Lorena had never lived in a place where it was cool—it was her one aim." (3.1)
This woman is stifling in the heat of her small room in the Dry Bean, the bar of Lonesome Dove. She may never have lived anywhere cool, but she has lived under the threatening shadow of some abusive men.
John Tinkersley took her away from a man named Mosby, who sold her to his friends, beat her in San Antonio, and left her in Lonesome Dove after telling everyone she was a murderer. Yikes. We understand why she wants to get away.
Gus is the one who opens the door to Lorena's freedom a crack. He helps her do business as a sporting woman (this doesn't mean playing tennis) and "it seemed to her he had got rid of something other men hadn't got rid of—some meanness or some need" (3.21).
Nevertheless, Jake Spoon's the one Lorena lets open the door all the way: she even lets Jake take her from Lonesome Dove.
Unfortunately, it was a gambler who got Lorena into the whole mess she's in, and Jake Spoon is just as much of a gambler. Sadly for Lorena, he gambles with her life. He treats her like an object, thinking he can take her wherever he wants, even though, as Gus says, "women don't like to go backwards" (18.45). Lorena only wants to go forward. She dreams of San Francisco, but she would probably settle anywhere she can have from freedom.
At first, Lorena likes the trip across the country.
"Looking up at the sky, her spirits rose even more. […] Being outside felt good—she had spent too much time in hot little rooms, looking at ceilings." (34.4)
Ah, the power of nature, right?
But Lorena's involved in the book's most harrowing, brutal chapters. She's kidnapped by an evil dude named Blue Duck. She's starved, not given water, forced to pee herself, and raped. It's terrible, and terribly hard to read. On these nights, Lorena "looked for the moon" (49.71), but nature no longer provides solace. Blue Duck almost breaks her spirit, but mercifully, Gus rescues her.
Gus realizes how strong Lorena is.
"The quality of determination had always intrigued him. Lorie had it, and Jake didn't." (23.71)
Heck, if Lorena had the spirit of Jake Spoon, we doubt Gus would even try to get her back.
Lorena ends up attached to Gus: she hopes Gus'll marry her, and she's jealous of Clara, the woman Gus holds a candle for. It's hard to read how a woman who seemed so independent and free-spirited becomes broken and dependent on a man. But even Lorena "hated the way she felt" (84.28) at this time.
Hope for Lorie comes in the strangest way—from Clara, the woman she's jealous of. Clara recognizes that Lorena is smart and capable, and that she's able to help her raise her two daughters. She even calls Lorena a lady.
"No one had ever applied the word 'lady' to her before. She knew she didn't deserve it." (88.60)
But Lorena, as we readers know, does deserve it. And she's rewarded for her responsibility.
Maybe it's ironic that Lorena ends up in a little room at the end of the novel, when all she wanted was to get out of her little room at the beginning of it. But the difference is that her little room at the end is a home. It's a place where she can make her own decisions, and where she can be a woman and not a whore.