Chapter 21: Souls

The next day at school, Sal watches in sympathy as Phoebe, so obviously sad and worried, tries to act normally. In English class that day, Mr. Birkway has his students draw their souls in fifteen seconds. The class is surprised by how similar the drawings are; each has a central, basic shape with a design in the middle. Sal and Ben discover that they have made the same drawing, a circle with a maple leaf inside.

Chapter 22: Evidence

Sal spends the night at Phoebe's, and in the morning looks on as Phoebe tries to convince Mr. Winterbottom that she is too sick to go to school. Everyone rushes around, clearly missing Mrs. Winterbottom's presence. Sal remembers that her household felt the same way when her mother left. At school, Phoebe finds herself lying to her friends about Mrs. Winterbottom's whereabouts and snapping at Sal when Sal tries to comfort her. Still sympathetic, Sal recalls the times she has lied rather than divulge what has happened to her mother. On the way home, Sal silences the friends trying to pry more information from Phoebe by repeating the message stating that everyone has their own agenda. At home, Phoebe, convinced that Mrs. Winterbottom has been kidnapped, roams the house looking for clues, and Sal recalls manufacturing a story that her mother was wandering around Lewiston, Idaho with amnesia. When Prudence and Mr. Winterbottom arrive at home, they find that Mrs. Winterbottom has carefully stored casseroles with baking directions in the freezer for her family, further evidence, Phoebe's father argues, that she left intentionally.

When Sal starts off for home, Mrs. Cadaver calls out from next door, inviting Sal to have dessert with her and her father. Sal refuses flatly. When her father meekly joins her on the walk home, foregoing dessert with Margaret, Sal feels as if she has won a small victory. Sal tells her father about Phoebe's theories about Mrs. Winterbottom's departure, asks her father if someone possibly forced Momma to go to Idaho, and idly wishes that they had stopped her from going. Her father sadly tells her that they had had to allow her mother to do as she pleased. They sit miserably on the porch step, looking out into the night.

Chapter 23: The Badlands

As Sal and her grandparents approach the Badlands, Sal reveals to us that her mother chose to travel to Lewiston to visit a long-lost cousin who, she thought, could help her remember who she was before she became a wife and a mother. Sal and her grandparents stop the car and look at the jagged beauty of the Badlands. Gram's breathing is troubled, and Gramps spreads out a blanket for her. Sal sees a pregnant woman, which triggers another, crucial memory of her mother. When her mother was eight months pregnant with Sal's little sister, Sal fell from the high branches of a tree a good distance from the farmhouse, broke her leg, and fell unconscious. Sal's mother found her, carried her home, and rushed her to the hospital to be fitted in a cast. At home later that night, Sal's mother went into a difficult labor. The doctor arrived too late: the umbilical cord had strangled the baby, and Sal's mother was hemorrhaging badly. Both she and Sal ask to hold the dead baby, and her father tells the guilt- ridden Sal that carrying her to the house had not caused her mother to go into an early labor. Sal's mother had to undergo a hysterectomy to save her life.

Looking out at the Badlands, Sal finds herself remembering a Native American legend her mother had told her. Napi, who created humans, decided whether they would live forever or die by choosing a rock and dropping it into the river. If the stone floated, human beings would live forever; if it sank, they would die. Of course, the stone sank. People, Sal sadly acknowledges, die.

Chapter 24: Birds of Sadness

That night, the travelers, much to their amusement, sleep on waterbeds at a hotel. Sal imagines she is floating down a river on a raft and dreams about her mother, who is asking how it is possible that they are all dead. The next day Sal once again takes up Phoebe's story. Another message, explaining that "you can't keep the birds of happiness from flying overhead, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair," appears on Phoebe's doorstep. Phoebe continues to lie about Mrs. Winterbottom's whereabouts at school. In English class, Ben delivers an oral report on the myth of Prometheus. Prometheus, a member of the Greek pantheon, stole fire from the Olympian gods and gave it to humans. As punishment for this infraction, Zeus sent man a troublesome woman, Pandora, and chained Prometheus to a rock, where vultures ate at his liver for all eternity. That night, Sal eats supper at Mary Lou's, and her father blandly tells Sal he will eat at Margaret's.


While stories serve as a path to truth and understanding in Walk Two Moons, Sal and Phoebe also use stories to hide from the truth. They both lie to friends about their mothers, Phoebe clings to the idea that Mrs. Winterbottom has been kidnapped by the lunatic, Sal tells herself that her mother will come back, that her mother has amnesia and is wandering around Lewiston, Idaho, and even goes so far as to try on Phoebe's kidnapping formula, when she suggests to her father that perhaps someone forced her mother to leave. Sal explains the purpose of these unlikely stories when she admits that she and Phoebe are actually trying to understand what reasons could possibly motivate their mothers to leave them. Fantastical stories provide the girls with a desirable answer, and they imagine scenarios where their mothers did not want to leave or were forced to leave. Sal feels especially conflicted, as she connects her broken leg with her mother's miscarriage and ensuing depression. She can build a logical chain of events that connects her actions with her mother's desire to leave, but she hides this chain beneath wild hopes and stories.

Part of Sal's coming-of-age journey involves learning to see her mother in more than her role as mother. Her mother is a complex being who can love Sal at the same time as needing to be away from her. Just as children strive to define and assert their independence from their parents, so must parents strive to maintain their emotional and personal independence from their children. As Sal endeavors to break away from her dependence on her parents while at the same time maintaining a strong and affectionate relationship with them, she must learn to see her parents as complex and often internally divided individuals with competing loyalties and visions of themselves.

Myths and dreams, another form of self-contained narrative, populate these four chapters of the novel. The two myths, that of the Native American god Napi and that of Prometheus, are alternate but thematically similar stories of man's origin. The Napi myth explains man's mortality, whereas the Prometheus myth depicts man being punished for trying to snatch power from the gods. Both myths illustrate that man's place is upon the earth, not among the gods. Man must give up any claims to godlike power over the elements or over death. These myths resonate with Sal, who is struggling to reconcile herself to the great losses she has suffered. In her dream, she tries to process the contradiction between the beauty and incredible generosity of a lifetime on earth with the suddenness and irrevocability of death. Slowly, Sal is learning to leave behind her childhood notions of permanence. She realizes that life itself, in all its manifold forms, from stories to myths to messages on the doorstep to the events of her life, reminds her that circumstances and emotions change and people die. Her dream reminds her of the suddenness and irrevocability of death and change.