In Walk Two Moons, what happened to Sal's mother and what clues infer the ending?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is not until Chapter 42 that the reader discovers the reason that Sal’s mother is not coming back is because she was killed in an accident. She was travelling by bus to Idaho to see her cousin when the bus swerved off the road at a sharp turn. The bus went over the edge, and the only survivor was Margaret Cadaver, who had been sitting beside Sal's mother and had become friends with her as they traveled together. Sal's mother told Margaret all about Sal and her husband. This is how Sal's father knew Margaret and talked so much with her. While Sal tried to convince herself that there was a romance brewing between Margaret and her father,in reality it was only her father clinging to the last person who had talked to his wife before her death. Margaret wanted to talk to Sal about her mother, but this was too "real" for Sal, who had not yet accepted the fact that her mother was not coming home.

There are some hints and clues, but at no time until this chapter does the reader clearly know the outcome. This is related to the fact that Sal cannot completely believe her mother is dead. The clues are clear with a second reading. Otherwise, they just seem to be random observations of Sal's. For example, in Chapter 2, Sal says that she is afraid of cars and buses, since that is how her mother was killed. In Chapter 3 she says that she is afraid of pregnant women. Sal's mother had suffered a miscarriage, which led her to want to visit her cousin in Idaho, as she was someone who knew her when she was a little girl, before she was a wife and mother. When Sal says that she needs to get to where her mother is in Idaho by her birthday so she can bring her back home, her father and grandparents tell her that she is fishing in the air because they know she is dead. When Ben asks about her mother and if she is coming back, Sal is momentarily confused. At heart, she knows her mother is gone, but she has not told anyone else about her mother's death.

When Sal’s mother left of her own free will, Sal did not understand. When Sal learns that her mother is not coming back, her father tries to tell her that she intended to come back. She did not plan to desert her family permanently, although it turned out she did. This is why Sal decides to help Phoebe find her mother, as she is convinced that if they can find Mrs. Winterbottom, it will somehow help her to deal with her own mother’s death.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is not until Chapter 42 that the reader discovers the reason that Sal’s mother is not coming back. Until then, there are some hints and clues, but at no time until this chapter does the reader know clearly the outcome.

The clues are clear on a second reading. Otherwise, they just seem to be random observations of Sal's. For example, in Chapter 2, Sal says that she is afraid of cars and buses. In Chapter 3 she says that she is afraid of pregnant women. These are clues to the reason Mrs. Hiddle left. She tells Sal that she wants to visit a cousin, someone who knew her when she was a little girl, before she was a wife and mother. When Sal says that she needs to get to Idaho, where her mother is, by her birthday so she can bring her back home, her father and grandparents tell her that she is fishing in the air.

When Sal’s mother left of her own free will, Sal did not understand. When Sal learns that her mother is not coming back, her father tries to tell her that she meant to come back. She did not plan on deserting her family permanently.  Yet it turned out that she did. This is why Sal decides to help Phoebe find her mother, convinced that if they can find Mrs. Winterbottom, it will somehow help her to deal with her own mother’s departure.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What clues in Walk Two Moons reveal what happened to Sal's mom?

There is another clue that reveals what happened to Sal's mother.

The clue is evident from a flashback conversation between Sal, her mother, and her father.

In the conversation, Sal's mother said that she was planning to go all the way to Lewiston, Idaho. Upon hearing that, Sal's father asked how she was going to get there. In response, Sal's mother said that she was going to take a bus. After hearing her response, Sal's father told her that she wouldn't have control over where she was going and how fast the bus would go. This is a huge clue as to how Sal's mother died.

The warning Sal's father gave was significant because Sal's mother was terrified of cars and didn't always like the speed at which vehicles moved. In other words, Sal's mother felt that people often drove too fast. By taking a bus (driven by someone else), she would have had no control over the speed of travel.

So, taking a bus all the way to Idaho would have been a risky action for Sal's mother to take.

Another clue as to how Sal's mother died can be seen in what Sal reveals about the road to Lewiston, Idaho. She tells us that the road to Lewiston curved in treacherous ways:

Maybe I could hitch a ride with someone who drove extensively fast, but the thought of someone speeding, careening around curves, especially the snaking curves down into Lewiston, Idaho, which I had heard so much about—when I thought about that, it made me dizzy and sick.

The clues here support what is eventually revealed in the novel: Sal's mother died in a bus accident.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What clues in Walk Two Moons reveal what happened to Sal's mom?

In Walk Two Moons, Sal joins her Gram and Gramps on a road trip to visit Lewiston, Idaho. She initially tells the audience that she is going to look after her grandparents, but then she goes on to list many other reasons that they are taking a journey across the country. The number one reason mentioned is "to see Momma, who was resting peacefully in Lewiston, Idaho." While the phrase "resting peacefully" is pretty specific, it is often overlooked. Readers often reach the end of the story and are surprised to discover that Momma is dead and we learned her fate in chapter two.

Sharon Creech gives us other clues about Sugar's death throughout the story in less obvious ways. In Mr. Birkway's class, the students read a poem about a man who disappears one night while walking by the ocean. Sal becomes obviously upset and assures her classmates that the man has died. This creates a discussion about death and how it is a normal part of living. Sal disagrees and states that death is never normal. Her strong feelings about the topic of death act as a clue to her mother's untimely end.

When Phoebe's mother disappears, Sal has a difficult time reassuring Phoebe that everything will be okay. She tells Phoebe that her mom may not come back at all. Sal knows from experience that sometimes things happen and people cannot come back, even if they want to return.

These are just a few of the many hints we have to help us uncover what happened to Sal's mother, who died in a bus accident in Idaho.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on