The Face on the Milk Carton Chapter 9 Summary
by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 9 Summary

Janie’s parents go silent, shocked by her questions. Janie stands in agony, desperate to know the truth. Her parents look at each other, and some silent communication passes between them. They both nod, agreeing to tell Janie their story.

Haltingly, the Johnsons admit that they are not her parents. They are her grandparents. They had a daughter, Hannah, who is Janie’s real mother. Hearing this, Janie feels frantic with relief. “Is that all?” she says. She can live with being the illegitimate child of a mother she has never met. That is far better than being the victim of a kidnapping, the lost child of faraway strangers.

Mr. Johnson tells Janie that he loves her and that he is her real father in an emotional sense, even if their legal and biological relationship is a little out of the ordinary. He admits, however, that he does not have her birth certificate. He does not know what to do about her driver’s license and passport. To Janie, this seems unimportant under the circumstances.

The family sits down for a snack, laughingly commenting that the Johnsons always use food to fix any emotional upheaval. Janie muses that she is not “completely a Johnson.” Her dad admits that none of them is a real Johnson. Originally, their family name was Javensen. He says it is a long story, and they need to begin it from the beginning.

Taking turns to speak, Janie's parents tell her about her past. The two of them married young and had a child, Hannah, a year later. Hannah was a wonderful person, but she never had the same interests as other children. Even as a little girl, she was always bothered by inequality. She could not live with the fact that she had everything when people elsewhere suffered and starved. When she grew up, she sought relief in the Hare Krishna cult. The cult destroyed her life.

Here, Janie’s parents pause to explain why they have never told Janie this story before now: They were afraid that she would try to find her mother and end up ensnared by the cult, too. Losing Hannah was the most horrible experience the Johnsons have ever had, and they could not stand to lose Janie. Seeing her parents’ emotions, Janie promises never to let this happen.

Continuing the story, Janie’s parents explain that they did everything to get Hannah away from the Hare Krishnas. Nothing worked. The few times they were allowed to visit her, she was like a zombie. They wrote to her frequently, but she never wrote...

(The entire section is 660 words.)