Chapters 7–16 Summary

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1017

Chapter 7: The Fishing Season

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1952: After being away for days, Pa returns to find that Kya has cleaned and prepared a meal of mustard greens, backbone, and grits. Pa treats her with such unexpected kindness that she decides to ask to go fishing with him instead of asking to borrow his boat. He agrees, and the duo spend the winter and spring fishing together. She catches sight of Tate once and waves. Pa shares a bit of his own family history, which Kya never knew: his family once had lots of land and raised tobacco, but they lost it all in the Depression and to cotton weevils. 

Chapter 8: Negative Data

1969: The results from the first of the lab reports on Chase Andrew’s death come in. The sheriff and deputy are convinced Chase was murdered, because of the absolute lack of evidence that remains. Not only were there no footprints headed up to the tower, but they now realize that there were no fingerprints left behind either—not even of those belonging to Chase. The men conclude that someone cleaned up the crime scene and that this individual possesses an uncommon talent for making evidence disappear. 

Chapter 9: Jumpin’

1953: Kya’s father takes her to Jumpin’s Gas and Bait, where she is met with kindness as Jumpin’ fills up her father’s tank. Her father then treats her to a first: dinner inside a restaurant. Afterward as she stands on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, a couple of ladies call her “filthy” and order Kya to stay away from their children. Her relationship with her father continues to improve until a letter arrives in her mother’s handwriting. Pa burns the letter, much to Kya’s horror, and then disappears for days. When he returns, he is once again the “old drunk” she has become so accustomed to.

Chapter 10: Just Grass in the Wind

1969: The sheriff and Joe return to the crime scene to look for any man-made clues. After a thorough search, they leave without discovering any further evidence.

Chapter 11: Croker Sacks Full

1956: Pa comes home less and less often, until Kya determines that he isn’t coming back at all. With no more “Monday money” that he gave her for supplies, Kya begins to contemplate how she will obtain the food and matches she needs to survive. One night when the kerosene lamp goes out, she is pushed into action and decides to dig up mussels and sell them to Jumpin’. He takes her first two bags but tells her that other people also bring them in, so she will have to get there first in the future or will lose the opportunity to sell them. She finds that having her own income is more reliable than “Monday money.”

Chapter 12: Pennies and Grits

1956: Kya spots Tate in the marsh and later sees a group of kids about her age; one of them is Chase Andrews. For the second week in a row, someone beats her to Jumpin’s with mussels, and Kya tries to sell him smoked fish instead. Jumpin’ returns home to tell his wife Mabel about Kya’s seemingly dire situation. The two of them ask their church to help Kya and then Mabel meets with Kya the next morning to determine her sizes and her greatest needs. The next morning, Jumpin’ meets Kya with boxes of clothes, shoes, and food and tells her that a family has agreed to trade these items for her smoked fish. Kya is grateful for the help.

Chapter 13: Feathers

1960: One afternoon Kya becomes aware of a boy in her marsh, but she can’t catch a clear sight of him. The only thing she finds afterward is a feather from the “eyebrow” of a great blue heron. The next morning she finds the rare tail feather of a tropicbird. Over a week later, she finds the striped tail feather of a turkey, which reminds her of another day when she spent time watching a hen get pecked by her own flock. Later that night, some boys made a game of tagging Kya’s cabin and yelling out “Marsh Girl” and “Missin’ Link” among other insults. 

Chapter 14: Red Fibers

1969: The lab results show that Chase Andrews suffered bruising and internal injuries consistent with a large fall. He died of a severed spine from falling from the tower, and the sheriff and deputy are now certain that someone pushed him and then removed all fingerprints and footprints. Additionally, they find red fibers on his jacket that didn’t come from any of his clothes.

Chapter 15: The Game

1960: Kya realizes that she should offer to leave feathers for the boy in exchange for those he leaves for her. She leaves the tail feather from an immature bald eagle on the stump and later finds a feather from the crest of a night heron and a carton of seeds with a spark plug. The carton also has a note, but Kya can’t read a word of it. Evening falls and the gift giver emerges from the trees: Tate. He thanks her for the feathers, including the latest from a tundra swan, and tells her what his note said: he thought she could use a few extra supplies. He offers to drop by occasionally, if that’s okay with her, and also offers to teach her to read.

Chapter 16: Reading

1960: Kya proves a quick learner and reads aloud her first sentence: “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” She begins to read everything around her. Tate learns of her math deficiencies, so he also teaches her those basics. Kya reads the names of her family in a Bible and the narrator notes that she will never know her family’s full history. Jake, her father, promised Maria a life he never fulfilled. After a cowardly act in World War II, he was falsely proclaimed a hero; yet the truth drove him further into alcoholism. Afterward, he moved his family to the shack in the marshes of North Carolina, where drinking and bad memories always plagued him.

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Chapters 17–22 Summary