Sal Hiddle tells her grandparents Phoebe’s story on their trip to Idaho. Sal had moved to Euclid, Ohio, and made friends with Phoebe. Phoebe is a “girl with a powerful imagination,” which she uses to come to terms after her mother leaves the family. Phoebe believes that the departure was not done willingly, but that her mother was kidnapped. She refused to believe that her mother left of her own free will.
As Sal tells the story, the reader learns that Sal’s own mother left her family and went to Idaho. Sal is on this trip to try to reach her mother by her birthday and bring her home. As she describes Phoebe’s adventures to her grandparents, she realizes that Phoebe’s story is her own. Like Phoebe, she refused to accept that her mother may have had good reasons for leaving, ones that had little to do with Sal. It had nothing to do with rejection, but in finding herself as a unique person, apart from being a wife and mother. Sal realizes that, like Phoebe, she had refused to accept the truth, driving everyone around her crazy. In the end, Phoebe’s mother returns home, but Sal’s mother is not coming back.