Form and Content
Walk Two Moons is a story within a story. Salamanca Tree Hiddle entertains her unique and charming grandparents on a trip from Ohio to Idaho with the story of Phoebe Winterbottom. Sal’s story about her experiences with Phoebe is intermingled with her first-person narrative of the trip’s events. Sharon Creech presents a deeply moving story told in a simple, straightforward fashion liberally sprinkled with picturesque phrases.
Sal’s mother left their farm in Bybanks, Kentucky, in April; a short time later, they learned that she is never returning. Unable to bear the memories that the farm evoked, Sal’s father moves them to a small house in Euclid, Ohio, where he sells farm machinery and, to Sal’s resentment, spends much of his spare time with his friend Margaret Cadaver. Phoebe Winterbottom, Margaret’s next-door neighbor, soon becomes Sal’s friend and confidante. Later that year, Sal’s grandparents arrive to take her by car from Euclid to Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother is “resting peacefully.” As they begin the trip, Gram Hiddle asks Sal to entertain them with a story, so Sal spins the “extensively strange story” of Phoebe Winterbottom.
Phoebe’s very ordered life with her highly respectable family begins to change the day that a strange young man appears on their doorstep. He asks to see her mother, who has gone shopping. Phoebe, who has been warned about strangers, is convinced that he is a lunatic, and, when her mother disappears sometime later, Phoebe decides that she has been kidnapped by him. Phoebe’s father points out that her mother has left notes for each family member and that the freezer is filled with neatly labeled meals, but Phoebe persists in her belief. Meanwhile, Sal finds herself attracted to Ben, the cousin of another friend, Mary Lou Finney. Ben is staying with Mary Lou’s family, and his mother, too, is missing. Sal and Phoebe trace the “lunatic” to a nearby university, where they see Phoebe’s mother kiss him gently on the cheek. Sal flees and tracks down Ben, who has traveled on the same bus to the university town, at a hospital. Here, she meets his mother, a psychiatric patient. When Phoebe arrives home, she discovers that her mother is returning the next day and is bringing someone with her. That someone turns out to be the “lunatic,” her illegitimate son.
Sal’s story about Phoebe progresses slowly as she and her grandparents drive across the country. Sal is anxious to arrive in Lewiston by her mother’s birthday, but, a hundred miles east, Gram Hiddle has a stroke and is hospitalized. Gramps gives Sal money and the car keys, and Sal drives carefully, as Gramps had taught her, to Lewiston Hill. It is there that her mother’s bus left the road, killing her. A kind sheriff helps Sal find her mother’s grave, and finally Sal can accept that her mother is dead.
A journey through loss and grief, from childhood to adolescence, from one home to another, are represented by the setting of Walk Two Moons, but the literal setting is a journey from Ohio to Idaho. Sal's trip with her grandparents includes various stops along the way at the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Yellowstone National Park, and Coeur d'Alene. The purpose of the trip is to revisit the last travels of Sal's mom. Sal's grandparents recognize the need for Sal to experience her mother's last days through this journey. Sal has mixed emotions: she knows she must go and wants to go, and yet she dreads the finality this trip will ultimately bring.
During the trip Sal tells of her adventures with her new friend, Phoebe, her school, and her other friends. Phoebe's story is set in the town of Euclid, Ohio, where Sal and her dad have gone to live. The move for Sal's dad represents the break that he must make as he faces life without his wife. Sal does not understand the need for the move, but her reality of life without her mother comes with her trip. The trip represents the journey she must travel to accept her...
(The entire section is 1,776 words.)