Maven is over fifty, long-divorced, plump, and mostly at odds with the world around her. She has never felt that she fit in, and her redneck, lower working-class family was very much against her going to college and becoming a teacher. She has no brothers or sisters. Her parents are dead, and the family was not close to any of the extended members. She is truly alone in the world.
Maven has not come to peace with any of that, never having come to terms with their values–or her own. She truly believes that there is a better way, and that many of the ills of society are due to the expectations of fairy tales: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, in particular. She feels like the ugly stepsister, the ducking who turns out not to be a swan, but just a duck. She has no tribe, but she does have the background of the typical redneck–likes beer, is opinionated, suspicious, and underneath it all, good-hearted and willing to work, though her veneer of education tries to hide that background..
Her sense of humor, ironic and cynical as it is, keeps her from falling completely into despair. She has spent a lot of time going to self-help classes and seminars, but with her low self-image and her lack of discipline in following the suggested routines, she has not made a lot of progress. She falls asleep in meditation, writes about how wrong–and wronged–she feels in her journal, and has hot flashes when she tries deep breathing.
She is outspoken, angry and feels very much put upon, especially since she lost her teaching job in public school, due partly to budget cuts, and partly to her cynicism and distrust of the system. This distrust has kept her from finding or keeping temp work, and with the local economy in recession, there aren’t many jobs to be had for people with little experience outside of teaching.
She was able to get some work at the local community college, but even that dried up so that she was unemployed, having run out of unemployment money, and not eligible for welfare or food stamps. She has sold everything she could at the local flea market. Her phone has been cut off, and she has no food in the house except for crackers and peanut butter. At the beginning of the story, she runs out of gas, out of hope and out of options with nowhere else to go, except into her own story.
Though her many trials, she has developed some intuition through the years, which she calls her Bump of Direction, which she thinks of as a trickster spirit. It is often not reliable, especially in Faery due to the illogical and non-rational nature of the landscape. Maven finds that she must become more conscious of her surroundings, and depend on her own senses to know what is going on and what to do next.