'Walk Two Moons' Resonates Even More Today
Walk Two Moons is one of those rare books that kids, parents, and teachers all loved to read. Sharon Creech's story resonates with themes of cultural identity, womanhood, and grief and death. And it's all narrated by a pretty awesome 13-year-old girl named Salamanca "Sal" Tree Hiddle.
Creech's Walk Two Moons is a story within a story — or as Sal puts it, her story hidden behind the story she tells of Phoebe. Sal takes a roadtrip with her grandparents to find her mother, who never returned from a bus trip to Idaho. But the truth unravels the deeper readers get into the story. The yarn she spins follows eccentric Phoebe Winterbottom, whose mother also disappears, and whose story ends up parallel to Sal's in more ways than one, but with a different outcome.
Creech has said that the novel is based on a fortune cookie that she read once: Don't judge a person until you've walked two moons in his moccasins.
Why Did We Love Walk Two Moons?
Sal was such a great character for both young women and young men to read along with. She's thoughtful, imaginative, and she knows how to captivate with a great narrative. Sure, she's reluctant to face painful facts, but that's what makes her so human. No, she's not a superhero, but she's a young girl, just like we were.
And her story is so compelling. Both the one she tells, and the one she experienced that slowly comes to light.
Through her troubled past, Sal may close some things off, but that doesn't mean she isn't open to understanding and learning from the experience. In fact, it turns her inquisitive side on. And the results are truly affecting.
It seems to me that we can’t explain all the truly awful things in the world like war and murder and brain tumors, and we can’t fix these things, so we look at the frightening things that are closer to us and we magnify them until they burst open. Inside is something that we can manage, something that isn’t as awful as it had a first seemed. It is a relief to discover that although there might be axe murderers and kidnappers in the world, most people seem a lot like us: sometimes afraid and sometimes brave, sometimes cruel and sometimes kind.
Sal comes to experience the world around her just as we were trying to do as children. And maybe we thought that she had learned a little more than we had, and we could look to her for some insight.
Why Do We Still Love It?
If it's even possible, I may love Walk Two Moons more as an adult than I did as a kid. Creech's words can be so poignant, and some times it hits even harder after you've grown up a bit — particularly how she discusses motherhood and women's roles.
Take for example this quote from the novel.
“Being a mother is like trying to hold a wolf by the ears,” Gram said. “If you have three or four – or more – chickabiddies, you’re dancing on a hot griddle all the time. You don’t have time to think about anything else. And if you’ve only got one or two, it’s almost harder. You have room left over – empty spaces that you think you’ve got to fill up.”
Even if you don't agree with Gram personally, you have to agree that its a very interesting way to discuss a phenomenon in some mothers of the world, as well as how some people see their mothers and others. This idea also helps readers understand Sal's mother, and, even if you don't agree with her actions, you can't help but feel for her.
It's another woman, however, who may even resonate further: Mrs. Winterbottom from Sal's story.
I wondered about Mrs. Winterbottom and what she meant about living a tiny life. If she didn't like all that baking and cleaning and jumping up to get bottles of nail polish remover and sewing hems, why did she do it? Why didn't she tell them to do some of the things themselves? Maybe she was afraid there would be nothing left for her to do. There would be no need for her and she would become invisible and no one would notice.
To which I can only say: This 13-year-old really gets it.
If You Loved Walk Two Moons, Try Reading...
1. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
The beautiful book The Bean Trees also centers on motherhood, and abandonment and longing. It's not hard to imagine that Sal would grow up to be very similar to the protagonist Taylor Greer in Kingsolver's novel. They're even both from rural Kentucky.
2. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris
Dorris' novel follows three generations of Indian women, and it also has a lot to say about womanhood, from the 15-year-old up to the elderly. There are echoes of some of the ideas in Walk Two Moons, and it truly adds to the conversation.
3. Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
The Newbery Medal-winning Missing May centers on Summer, an orphan who is passed around among relatives, until she finds a home with her aunt May and uncle Orb in the mountains. However, when May dies, both are consumed with grief, until they cope with their sadness by connecting with May through a medium and go on a road trip to find her.