Gram falls unconscious, and Sal and Gramps rush her to the hospital in Coeur D'Alene, where the doctors tell them that Gram has had a stroke. Despite the protests of the doctors, Gramps refuses to leave her side for even a second. Sal, reflecting on grandfather's emotions, wonders if he suspects the snakebite caused the stroke and blames himself for taking her to the river. Sal realizes then that just as Gramps should not blame himself for Gram's illness, so she cannot blame herself for her mother's miscarriage. She then recalls the process through which their dog weaned her puppies: though the beagle was protective and caring when the puppies were first born, after a few months, she roughly pushed them away. Sal's mother had explained to Sal that the mother dog wanted her puppies to be able to take care of themselves in case something happened to her, and Sal realizes that in a way, her mother's trip to Lewiston was her way of trying to make Sal more able to take care of herself. Later that night, Gramps tells Sal that he must stay with Gram, but hands her the car keys and all his money, tacitly giving her permission to drive to Lewiston herself.
Sal spends four hair-raising hours driving down to Lewiston. When she reaches the tall hill just outside the city, she creeps down the hairpin curves, finally stopping at an overlook. Another man stops and, pointing out the broken trees and a faintly glinting hunk of metal, begins to tell her about the terrible bus crash that took place a year ago in exactly that spot. He goes on to tell her that only one person survived the crash, but Sal already knows all this.
As dawn is gathering, Sal climbs down the hillside toward the overturned bus. She looks into its mangled and moldy interior and sadly realizes that there is nothing she can do here. When she climbs back up to the car, a sheriff greets her. At first he is angry with her for climbing around the bus and driving at the age of thirteen, but when Sal tells him her story, he drives her to her mother's grave, which is on a hill overlooking the river. Sal sits down to drink in all the details of this spot and, to her joy, finds a nearby "singing tree," a tree with a songbird living in its highest branches. Only then she leaves, knowing that, in a way, her mother is alive in this place.
The sheriff drives Sal back to Lewiston, lecturing her about the dangers of driving without proper training. Sal questions him about the accident, explaining what she learned the day she decided to talk to Mrs. Cadaver. Mrs. Cadaver had been the lone survivor of the terrible crash, and had sat next to Sal's mother during the entire trip, listening to her stories about Bybanks and her daughter. After the accident, Sal's father, who came to Lewiston to bury his wife, met Mrs. Cadaver and discussed his wife's last days with her. During the conversation with Margaret, Sal had asked her if she planned to marry her father, and Margaret, surprised, explained that her father was still too much in love with her mother to marry anyone else.
When they arrive in Coeur D'Alene, Sal discovers that Gram has died. She finds Gramps, who has already arranged for Gram to be sent back to Kentucky, in a nearby motel. The two move mournfully through the room the rest of the day, and that night, Sal helps Gramps recite his nightly, now slightly altered, mantra: "This ain't my marriage bed, but it will have to do."
Sal resumes her narration a few months later. She, along with her father and Gramps, are back in Bybanks. Gram is buried in a nearby aspen grove, and Gramps continues to give Sal driving lessons. The pair now practices "walking in other people's moccasins"—routinely imagining how they would feel if they were one of their friends or family members. Sal shares one other Native American myth—that of Estsanatlehi, who is born, dies, and is reincarnated ad infinitum. Sal and Ben exchange letters, and Sal looks forward to an upcoming visit from all her Euclid friends: Ben, Mrs. Cadaver, Phoebe, and Mrs. Partridge. Sal closes her story, content with what she has, accepting of what has been, and anticipating what will come.
In the final few chapters of the book, Sal undergoes the most extreme and literal version of separation she experiences in the book: she drives by herself through the night to the site of her mother's death. Her father and her friends are thousands of miles away. Her grandparents, who have been her constant companions and support during her separation from her home, now wait, immobilized, in the hospital. This separation is emotionally and physically dangerous, as she is retracing the perilous trek down the side of the mountain that resulted in her mother's death. Sal must negotiate the treacherous turns while simultaneously negotiating the knowledge that her mother's last moments alive were spent on that very road. Sal endures this trial bravely and successfully. She inspects the site and finds a capable adult, the sheriff, who drives her to see her mother's grave in Lewiston. Sal's experience of separation extends even beyond her solo pilgrimage to the site of her mother's death and her final resting place. When she returns to Lewiston, her grandmother is dead. Sal bears up under this trauma as well, bravely supporting Gramps in his grief.
However, in a way, Sal has already undergone her trial long before she reaches Lewiston. Her quest was to sift through the details of her mother's death, to verify it, and to reconcile herself with it. Sal, who knows more about the accident than the sheriff, despite the fact that he was present at the scene of the crash a year ago, has already faced the reality of her mother's death when she confronts Margaret Cadaver. Her decision to speak with Margaret that day in Euclid signifies her willingness to confront the possibility that her father may be falling in love with someone else, that her mother's death is permanent, and that the world is moving on without her. Sal's quest is not so much to change the world, but to accept it as it is, and she moves close to obtaining this acceptance with her decision to hear Margaret's story.
After a romantic hero's separation and trial, he or she is united with earlier companions in a new, more adult role. Appropriately, Sal, having undergone her trial and gained the reward of a wiser and more adult perspective, returns to Bybanks, where she is reunited with her home, Gramps, her father, and the spirit of her mother. The final pages of her narration demonstrate her more adult attitude: she accepts the losses she has suffered, and she actively seeks to understand and sympathize with the people around her. Though she may have not gained exactly what she set out to achieve, she has gained the ability to accept and make the best of that which life offers her.
As the book draws to a close, Sal mentions both Prometheus and Pandora in passing, but closes with one final myth: that of Estsanatlehi. Estsanatlehi, the mother goddess who grows old and dies only to be reincarnated as an infant in an endless cycle, represents not only the eternal cycle of the seasons, but the hope that humans, too, or some unidentifiable aspect of them, live on beyond death. Indeed, as Sal moves around the farm, she senses her mother's presence continually. This hope, that Sal's mother has left her with irreplaceable memories and gifts through which she lives on, is the hope at the bottom of the Pandora's box opened by the tragic chain of events leading to her death.