66 pages 2 hours read

Sharon Creech

Walk Two Moons

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1994

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Walk Two Moons is perhaps the most famous work of Sharon Creech, a celebrated author of young adult fiction. The novel blends elements of both a coming-of-age narrative and a road story, and is set in the same literary universe as several of Creech’s other works, including Absolutely Normal Chaos (1990) and Chasing Redbird (1997). Following its 1994 publication, Walk Two Moons won numerous awards, including the 1995 Newbery Medal and the 1995 Children’s Book Award in long fiction. All citations in this study guide refer to the 1996 Harper Trophy edition of the novel.

Plot Summary

The novel tells the parallel stories of two 13-year-old girls: Salamanca (“Sal”) Hiddle and Phoebe Winterbottom. In the novel’s frame narrative, Sal recounts the story of her recent road trip to Lewiston, Idaho. Roughly a year before, Sal’s mother Sugar had left her husband (John), her daughter, and the family farm in Bybanks, Kentucky after suffering a stillbirth. She planned to visit a cousin while working through this trauma, but the bus she was on crashed just outside of Lewiston, killing everyone on board except the woman Sugar was sitting next to: a nurse named Margaret Cadaver. When Sal learned of her mother’s death, she refused to accept it, and in fact conceals it from readers for most of the novel.

This state of denial is the impetus for Sal’s own journey; while she hopes to bring her mother home, her father’s parents (“Gram” and “Gramps”) hope that showing Sal her mother’s final resting place will at last provide her with some closure. They therefore set out from Sal’s new home in Euclid, Ohio (where she and her father moved after Sugar’s death) and follow the bus route westward, stopping at sights like Lake Michigan and Old Faithful along the way. Gram and Gramp’s childlike enthusiasm and general disregard for consequences also result in several misadventures, the most serious of which involves a venomous snake biting Gram. Gram initially recovers but later suffers a stroke outside Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. While Gramps waits with her in the hospital, Sal drives the rest of the way to Lewiston, where she sees both the site of the crash and her mother’s grave. Having finally made peace with her mother’s death, she returns to Coeur d’Alene and learns that Gram has passed away.

Over the course of this road trip, Sal entertains her grandparents with a story about her friend Phoebe, whose mother abruptly disappeared one day. Phoebe believed her departure to be connected to a mysterious young man, whom she called the “lunatic,” who had recently visited the house looking for Mrs. Winterbottom. She likewise suspected that her neighbor Mrs. Cadaver might have played a role in her mother’s supposed “kidnapping.” Although Sal generally considered this theory unlikely—Mrs. Winterbottom had left several notes for her family before leaving—she became swept up in Phoebe’s investigation as a result of her resentment of Mrs. Cadaver. Ultimately, the girls discovered the name of the “lunatic”—Mike Bickle—and went to spy on him at his college campus. While there, they oversaw him talking to Mrs. Winterbottom and concluded from her behavior that the two were having an affair. When she returned to her family the next day, however, she revealed that Mike was actually her son, whom she had given up for adoption before meeting or marrying her current husband.

By the time the novel ends, Sal and her father are once again living in Bybanks, where Gram has been laid to rest. Although Sal still grieves for both Gram and her mother, she finds joy and meaning in things like family, nature, and storytelling. She’s also looking forward to a visit from several family friends, including Mrs. Cadaver, Phoebe, and Ben Finney—a boy with whom Sal developed a romantic relationship while living in Euclid.

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