Chapter 2 Summary

Five years later, Sylvia (the elder) dies and her plan finally comes to fruition. One morning, Lucille and Ruth go into their grandmother’s room and are unable to wake her. Soon after, their grandmother’s sisters-in-law, Lily and Nona, arrive to live with and take care of the girls. The two are a pair of blue-haired, squat old ladies prone to having private conversations that are audible to the whole house because they are both hearing impaired. When they first arrive, they both seem quite nervous and are unsure how to behave around Lucille and Ruth. That night, the older women talk about their sister-in-law and how young she was to have died (at aged seventy-six). They note that Ruth and Lucille are attractive enough, but pale in comparison to their grandmother. They also wonder why all of Sylvia’s children turned out so poorly, especially the itinerant Sylvie, whom they haven’t been able to reach to inform her of her mother’s passing.

Since it is the middle of winter, the lake in Fingerbone freezes into solid ice, and the girls revel in ice skating there. Other people from the town skate or bring sleds to enjoy some outdoor activity. When Lucille and Ruth arrive home after dark one night, Lily and Nona admonish them for their tardiness. They remind the girls that the town is perilous for them because of the absence of street lights and the bitter, bitter cold. Ruth notes that Lily and Nona thrive on repetition and structure; thus, their transition to living in their sister-in-law’s house has been difficult.

Following the skating incident, the old women have more late-night chats about the girls’ future. They dream of taking the girls back to where they used to live, but doubt they will be accepted. Suddenly, the two become much more interested in tracking down Sylvie. They express concern that Sylvie might accidentally find out about her mother from the papers, so they compose a letter to send to her despite not having her address. Fortunately, Sylvie sends a note to her mother (whom she does not is dead) providing her new address. Eventually, Lily and Nona are convinced that Sylvie would be a much better fit for taking care of Ruth and Lucille. As with all of their chats, this one is overheard by Lucille and Ruth. To them, their aunt is a mysterious and intriguing figure. Both of them argue about what she will look like and whether or not she will resemble their mother.