Last Updated May 29, 2023.
Chapter 2 focuses on Mavis Albright, who resides in Maryland in 1968 at the outset of the chapter. She is going through a terrible ordeal, as her twin infants have passed away, and journalists and photographers are intruding on her personal sorrow. Mavis is not greatly affected by the reporters' thoughtless inquiries and implications, as she is preoccupied with more urgent issues.
Mavis feels fearful around her family. Sal, the oldest child of Mavis and Frank, intentionally inflicts pain on her mother by pinching her harshly enough to draw blood and stomping on her feet. These acts of violence amplify Mavis' suspicion that her family is scheming to cause her significant harm, possibly even plotting her death. It appears as if her spouse and children are coordinating their own plans, deliberately excluding her from their hidden motives. Mavis senses an ever-present threat in her surroundings.
During the nighttime, Mavis quietly swipes Frank's vehicle and successfully escapes her family. She navigates stealthily through the darkness, anxious about being detected or assaulted. Mavis briefly stops at a friend's place before seeking refuge with her mother, Birdie Goodroe. Staying at her mother's for just under a week, Mavis plots her exit but hastily departs upon hearing Birdie instruct Frank to fetch her. Repainting the car, Mavis sets off westward, bound for California. As her funds dwindle, she takes on female hitchhikers to share fuel costs, deeming them less risky than male counterparts.
Two hitchhikers request that Mavis give them a ride to a graveyard, where various individuals, including military personnel, stroll about as though they are in a public park. Bennie, the final hitchhiker, develops a short-lived bond with Mavis. Bennie's singing provides solace to Mavis, but Bennie's abrupt departure (taking Mavis' raincoat and boots) leaves her feeling disheartened. Mavis is convinced that she spots Frank, her spouse, at a fuel station, despite the man's differing hair and attire, and believes she narrowly avoided being apprehended.
Finally running out of fuel, Mavis hesitates before leaving her vehicle. By chance, she stumbles upon the Convent and encounters Connie, a woman who appears to work and possibly reside there. Although their interaction starts awkwardly, the two women eventually bond and converse comfortably. Connie humorously suggests accompanying Mavis to California, but it seems unlikely. Connie offers Mavis food and is asked to assist by shelling pecans. Notably, the structure evokes odd echoes and a sense of presence for Mavis. Within her initial moments at the Convent, she feels as if children are nearby, which leaves her slightly unsettled.
As Connie and Mavis engage in conversation, a guest arrives—Soane Morgan, a resident of Ruby who appears at ease in the Convent. Connie and Soane chat briefly. Soane has come to collect something, although the object remains unknown to the reader. She offers Mavis a ride to the gas station, where Mavis, after some struggles with the attendant, acquires a gas can. During their journey, they enjoy classic Motown tunes playing on the radio, which Mavis appreciates. Soane's son then drives Mavis back to her vehicle. Due to the darkness, Mavis opts to return to the Convent instead of proceeding to California, ultimately choosing to stay in this newfound location.
Subsequently, Mavis encounters Mother, an individual well-versed in the Convent's history and proficient in Latin. Mother is accompanied by Connie, and the two appear to have some tension between them. However, Mavis' initial meeting with Mother substantially impacts her, making her feel a sense of belonging within the Convent. Fast forward to 1976, Mavis is still at the Convent when armed men arrive in the early hours, as depicted in the opening chapter.