Summary: Chapters 8–11

Chapter 8 (1969)

Four days after Chase Andrews’ death, Ed and Joe receive a lab report showing “negative data.”  Other than the time of death, there is no evidence. Ed and Joe believe this proves Chase’s death was a murder, and the scene was cleaned up. At the diner, Ed and Joe hear everyone gossiping about who the murderer may be. Miss Pansy Price suspects “that woman lives out in the marsh.” 

Chapter 9 (1953)

Pa introduces Kya to an older Black man named Jumpin’ who sells gas on the wharf, then takes her to a restaurant, where customers rudely point out they are barefoot. After a big dinner, Kya waits outside while Pa pays the bill. A four-year-old girl named Meryl Lynn speaks to Kya, who marvels at the girl’s golden curls and clean white hands. Teresa White, the girl’s mother and a pastor’s wife, picks up Meryl Lynn and tells her not to talk to Kya because she’s dirty. Another woman talks to Teresa and they claim that the marsh dwellers brought measles to town and spread disease. 

One day a letter comes from Ma. Pa reads the letter but then burns it.  Kya saves the ashes. After that, Pa returns to being a drunk and never takes Kya fishing again. He tells her Ma is never coming back.

Chapter 10 (1969)

Ed and Joe continue to search but find no evidence at the scene. 

Chapter 11 (1956) 

When Kya is 10 years old, Pa leaves and doesn’t return. Before dawn, Kya digs mussels and sells them to Jumpin’ for gas and basic supplies. After that, Kya supports herself selling mussels to Jumpin’, buying all her supplies from him and avoiding the Piggly Wiggly.

Analysis: Chapters 8–11

Chapter 9 introduces Jumpin', who will become an important link between Kya's natural world and the town of Barkley Grove. It is symbolically fitting that Jumpin's gas station is on a wharf, straddling the town and the wild water. Like Kya, he is a figure that straddles two realities, neither of which can fully provide what he needs. Unable to live in Barkley Cove because of his race and unable to make a living in the Colored Town encampment where he must live, he works on the edge of town on his wharf, living a marginalized existence. The book draws a parallel between Jumpin’ and Kya: one is able and willing to live closer to civilization, the other is on the edge but nodding toward nature. Jumpin' can exist within a community, albeit separate from Barkley Cove, in a way that Kya simply cannot. When Kya is left alone, Jumpin' is the adult that she feels comfortable approaching, as he is the only one who won't ask questions about a girl on her own. They make a deal in which she will sell him mussels and other seafood that she’s gathered in return for supplies she needs. Here, Jumpin’ acts like a consistent parental figure, in contrast to Kya’s relationships with her biological parents.

Jumpin’ is a likeable, sympathetic, and important figure of love and strength for Kya, protecting her as best he can. However, as critics of the novel have pointed out, he is denied a focused development of his character and could be considered a caricature of a Black American. His speech pattern is markedly different from that of the white characters, despite many class similarities. He serves no important function in the narrative beyond that of avuncular ally to the white protagonist. He is not even given a proper name as he is named only for the action (jumping) he takes to demonstrate his willingness to please those who patronize his business. Critics have suggested that a line can be drawn from Jumpin' to racist portrayals of Black Americans from the early 20th century, such as the 1930s character Stepin' Fetchit, or even Jumpin' Jim Crow.
The pain and importance of memory is once again an important subject in this section. Pa burns the letter that he receives from Ma, again attempting to erase any representation of her in his life. Kya demonstrates her need to hold onto that which her father wants to erase when she saves the ashes. It seems that Pa can compartmentalize his negative feelings toward Ma in her total absence, but the destroyed letter sets off another bout of anger and drunkenness, culminating in his eventual and permanent abandonment of Kya. Pa cannot be happy with the memory of Kya's Ma, and Kya cannot be happy without it. Again and again, the novel insists that memory is crucial, both because it is filled with lessons that can be applied—especially in Kya's case—in ways that are life-saving, and because in the end, attempting to erase the memories not only hurts the one remembering, but everyone else around them.