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Gram interrupts Sal's tale with her own reminiscences, and the three travelers pull into a rest stop. Sal, who wants to hurry onward as quickly as possible, recollects two times in the recent past when her grandparents were arrested during road trips. In the rest stop, Gramps spies a woman timidly examining the engine of her car. He proceeds to "help" her by pulling all the hoses out of the engine. Before long, they summon a car mechanic and continue on with their journey.
Back on the road, Sal launches into her story. Mr. Winterbottom comes home from work, cutting short Phoebe's grim conjectures about Margaret Cadaver. Sal sits down to dinner with the Winterbottoms, noting how prim, proper, and careful they are. Sal feels especially sorry for Mrs. Winterbottom, who tentatively mentions all of her housewifely tasks, only to be utterly ignored by her husband and children. After dinner, Phoebe tells Sal that she thinks Margaret Cadaver dismembered her absent husband and buried him in the backyard. In bed that night, Sal, her memory jogged by a blackberry pie at the Winterbottoms' home, reminisces about her mother: one morning, her father had left fresh flowers on the breakfast table. Her mother, deeply moved by his gesture, wanted to surprise him at work in the fields. She and Sal snuck up behind him, but he turned around at the last second. Before her mother could say anything, he pointed proudly to the fence he had built that morning. Inexplicably, Sal's mother had burst into tears, repeating over and over that she was not good enough for him. The next morning, Sal's mother had put bowls of freshly picked blackberries out on the breakfast table, and, when her father kissed her in thanks, she timidly asserted that she was almost as good as her husband.
The three travelers cross the border into Illinois. Gram looks at Lake Michigan with longing, and, despite Sal's worries about time, Gramps drives down to the shore for a break. That night, Sal tries to imagine what it will be like in Lewiston, but instead her mind lingers stubbornly on the past. She recalls that before her mother left, Sal had understood the entire world based on cues from her mother, taking on all her mother's moods. When her mother had left, Sal felt no emotions for almost two weeks, until the sight of a new calf made her realize, with some surprise, that she could have emotions independently of her mother. The next day, back on the road, Sal reflects on their trip itinerary. They are following the path her mother took on her trip to Lewiston.
The next day, Sal resumes Phoebe's tale. Sal and Phoebe are alone at Phoebe's house on a Saturday morning and about to walk down the street to a friend's house when the doorbell rings. Phoebe, who suspects that the stranger at the door might be a lunatic with a gun, opens the door timidly. The young, dark- haired boy asks for Mrs. Winterbottom, and Phoebe, afraid to let him know that she and Sal are there alone, closes the door and walks through the house, calling for her mother. Unable to keep up this ruse, she returns to the door and tells the boy her mother is actually out. She asks him if he wants to leave a message, but he declines, turns around, and walks away. Once he is out of sight, the two girls race over to their friend's house.
Sal's narrative demonstrates the way in which the present itself is riddled with memory and the way in which physical objects are loaded with metaphorical and narrative significance. The memory of her mother and the blackberries is a story buried within other stories. For example, she remembers/tells the story of her mother in the context of her narration to us, the audience, of the tale she told her grandparents. Within the tale she is telling her grandparents, she ate the pie that triggered the memory. In other words, the narrative has four layers: the blackberry story, which is embedded within the story of Phoebe, which is embedded within the story she is telling her grandparents, which is embedded within the story she is telling us. The journey in Walk Two Moons consists not only of asphalt, rest stops, and national parks, but of isolated moments, bits of narratives, unexpected strangers and emotions. The past does not merely precede and lead up to the present, it bubbles up into the present as Sal struggles to make sense out of past experiences that haunt and confuse her. Similarly, objects come to stand for entire memories, emotions, anecdotes, and characterizations. The blackberries, simple enough as a small breakfast treat, take on much greater significance when embedded within the larger narrative: they give us a glimpse into the fears, inadequacies, and frustrations that Sal's mother felt in her life on the farm in Kentucky. Objects themselves carry, contain, and symbolize Sal's past and prefigure her hazy understanding of her future.
Like the heroes of many young adult novels, Sal feels wary of adults and more comfortable with other young people and the elderly. Sal resents her father for his interest in Margaret, she watches the conventional Mr. and Mrs. Winterbottom with pity and fascination, she dreads Margaret, and she cannot help but feel that at some level, her mother has abandoned her. Sal is on the brink of her own adulthood—her world is changing as she grows older, but she does not fully understand or fully trust the adult world toward which she is moving. Her break with her mother symbolizes that Sal has begun to leave behind childhood. Before her mother left, Sal explains, she took all her emotional cues from her mother, but two weeks after her mother's departure, Sal found, to her surprise, that she was capable of feeling emotions for herself. Sal is moving toward adulthood, but reluctant to leave the past. She longs for the farm, she resents the town, she fumes at her father and Margaret, she embarks on the long cross-country journey with a childish hope that she will be able to bring her mother back.
In contrast to her indeterminate and unstable attitude toward the adults in her life, Sal enjoys a reliable and comfortable relationship with her grandparents. Her grandparents listen to Sal's story wholeheartedly and intermingle bits of their own memories with Sal's retelling. Unlike the Winterbottoms, they take risks and act unconventionally and spontaneously. Unlike her father or her mother, they have not betrayed Sal in any way. To some extent, Sal actually parents them, worrying about how quickly they are progressing across the country and secretly convinced that she is traveling with them to keep them from getting into trouble, whereas her grandparents act like children, wanting to stop and linger at all the attractions that catch their eyes. Sal's grandparents aid her in her quest to untangle her past and better understand herself.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Walk Two Moons!