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She realizes that the trip to Idaho "had been a gift from Gram and Gramps to [her].They were giving [her] a chance to walk in [her] mother's moccasins — to see what she had seen and feel what she might have felt on her last trip." Sal and her father return to the farm in Bybanks, Kentucky to live.
Along the way, she tells them of the story of Phoebe Winterbottom, who received mysterious messages, who met a "potential lunatic," and whose mother disappeared.
As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe's outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold—the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.
Phoebe acts like an "ornery donkey." Sal realizes this is the way she must have acted when her mother left her. Winterbottom will be staying home and that major changes will take place in the Winterbottom household. Winterbottom leaves, anonymous messages are left on the Winterbottom's front porch.
Eventually, Phoebe's mother does return to the house with a young man who, she tells the family, is a son she had put up for adoption before she married Mr. Phoebe is convinced a "lunatic" has left the messages.
In her own singularly beautiful style, Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech intricately weaves together two tales, one funny, one bittersweet, to create a heartwarming, compelling, and utterly moving story of love, loss, and the complexity of human emotion.
Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, proud of her country roots and the "Indian-ness in her blood," travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents.Her parents seemed to love each other very much and Sal, "a country girl at heart," was at home on the farm.Sal's mother has a stillborn baby and, afterward, becomes quite depressed. Her solution is to go away "to clear her head, and to clear her heart of all the bad things." Sal and her father try to persuade her not to go, but she leaves anyway.Mary Lou has a cousin named Ben who is living with her family.He is also in Sal's class, and Sal and Ben become more than friends — they fall in love.They rent a small house a few blocks from Margaret's. Margaret, the only survivor of the crash, had been sitting next to Sal's mother on the bus.Sal hates the new house and she doesn't want to have anything to do with Margaret.Sal begins to realize that Phoebe's mother seems unhappy. Winterbottom notes and has stocked the freezer with food.She is not surprised when Phoebe goes home from school one day and finds that her mother has disappeared. Phoebe is angry and hurt because her mother has abandoned her.In the telling of her story, the tragic events of her own mother's disappearance and parallels between the situations and reactions of the girls are revealed.Sal lived on a farm in Bybanks, Kentucky, with her mother and father.