The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 18 Summary

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Janie marvels at how easily Lizzie explains the kidnapping situation to the Johnsons. Janie has spent months worrying and wondering, and now Lizzie’s quick, efficient description has freed Janie of the whole burden in a few moments. It is an enormous relief. Janie feels like dancing. Her parents, on the other hand, are crushed. Although they did not commit the kidnapping themselves, they feel guilty. They also worry about what the Springs will do when they find out what happened.

Janie suddenly feels hungry, and she asks her parents to order a pizza. This makes them laugh. They comment that she must be their real daughter if she gets hungry during a crisis. Mrs. Johnson timidly says that experiences like Janie’s would have destroyed Hannah. Janie answers that it nearly did destroy her, but she was strong enough to handle her problems in the end.

The family discusses all the ways the Springs may react. When Janie says she wants the whole situation to just go away, Lizzie tells her a difficult truth: it will never go away. It will always be Janie’s story, no matter what she wants. Mrs. Johnson has trouble reconciling herself to what has happened. “I can’t believe this is my life," she says.

Mr. Johnson suggests going on with life as always and telling the Springs nothing, but Mrs. Johnson vetoes this idea. She thinks about Hannah daily and prays for Hannah every night; she is sure that Mrs. Spring suffers for her lost child in a similar way.

Needing reassurance, Janie begs her parents to forgive her for what has happened. Her mother and father hug her as she and they cry together. The scene becomes so emotional that even the stoic Lizzie has tears in her eyes. All Janie really wants is a happy ending, and Lizzie tries to help find one. She suggests that Janie should offer to visit the Springs in exchange for their promise not to press kidnapping charges against Hannah or anyone else involved. Janie thinks this over, but before she reaches a decision, she sees her mother dialing the Springs in New Jersey. Now that Mrs. Johnson knows the truth, she cannot allow the indecision and the waiting to continue. She says that Mrs. Spring needs to know what happened to her child.

Everyone waits in suspense as the phone rings. Janie hugs her mother and takes the receiver. Eventually, a woman answers. Still clinging to the woman she has known as her mother all her life, Janie says, “Hi. It’s...your daughter. Me. Jennie.”

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Chapter 17 Summary