Walk Two Moons has received five prestigious awards, including the Newbery Medal in 1995. The Ohio-born author, Sharon Creech, attributes the title of the book to a message she discovered inside a fortune cookie while she was finishing her manuscript: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” The plot is separated into three separate settings that intermingle throughout the story to illustrate the personal transformation of the lead character, Salamanca Tree Hiddle, known as Sal. She is a thirteen-year-old girl who is homesick for her farm in the fictional town of Bybanks, Kentucky, and who misses her mother with a desperate intensity that dominates the story. The book is framed around a road trip Sal takes with her grandparents from Euclid, Ohio, to Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother fled after a tragic miscarriage and a bout with depression. Sal and her grandparents trace the route her mother took west, visiting the places she described in postcards she sent them.
Throughout the road trip, Sal recalls memories of her mother before she left their home in Bybanks. She also tells stories to her grandparents about the recent disappearance of Phoebe Winterbottom’s mother, the appearance of the Lunatic, and her budding romance with a classmate named Ben. In turn, Sal’s grandparents relate stories about their own lives and marriage.
Sal’s memories of her mother, Sugar, are both sweet and sad. Sal’s early memories of her mother reveal a woman who adores her husband, her daughter, and life on their family farm. Sugar loves anything to do with nature, including insects, animals, and sugar maple trees (after which she was named). Of particular importance are the wild blackberries Sal would pick with her mother in the spring. Sugar’s kisses often smelled like blackberries, so the berries come to represent her mother to Salamanca, as do the trees for which they are each named.
Sal’s parents dream of “filling up the house with children,” but when Sugar gives birth to a stillborn daughter and subsequently undergoes an emergency hysterectomy necessitated by complications with the birth, she struggles with her roles as a wife and mother and falls slowly into a depression. Sugar hopes to find relief during a visit to her cousin, so she travels to Lewiston, Idaho. But she does not return. The details of Sugar’s experience in Idaho are vague until the last few chapters of the book.
Sal struggles with guilt because of an accident she had the day of the stillbirth, which caused her mother to carry her for a short distance. She also feels guilty because she has an intermittent desire to move on without her mother. Her father’s grief proves to be too painful; he moves Sal and himself to Ohio where his new friend, Margaret Cadaver, has found him a new job. Sal is resentful of her father’s relationship with Margaret. She attempts to avoid Margaret and her blind, eccentric mother, Mrs. Partridge, when possible. Then Salamanca meets Phoebe.
The girl’s friendship begins when Sal spots Phoebe Winterbottom peering from her bedroom window across the street from Margaret Cadaver’s house. Phoebe thinks Margaret and her eccentric mother are peculiar and have possibly murdered the late Mr. Cadaver. Because Sal is eager to find fault with the new woman in her father’s life, she agrees with Phoebe although her better judgment tells her otherwise.
Dinner at the home of Mary Lou Biddle, a new friend, reveals a sharp contrast between the Winterbottom family and the Biddle family, who live in a home full of children in comfortable chaos. Mary Lou’s family shows more concern for meeting each other’s needs and being together than appearing to be perfect, as Phoebe’s family prefers. After Mary Lou’s cousin Ben plants a misplaced kiss on Salamanca’s collarbone, her own young romance begins to blossom.
When Phoebe’s mother disappears, a strange young man comes by asking for Phoebe’s mother, and mysterious...
(The entire section is 2,160 words.)