Walk Two Moons Summary: Chapters 17-20

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

As Sal and her grandparents travel through South Dakota, the truth about why her Momma left is revealed. This lesson will focus on Chapters 17 through 20 of ''Walk Two Moons''.


Salamanca Tree Hiddle, or Sal, and her grandparents are heading from Ohio to Idaho to see Sal's Momma. Though Sal had previously been in a rush, now that they've reached South Dakota, she dreads the destination and hopes their trip goes slowly. As they drive, Sal tells her grandparents the story of her friend Phoebe Winterbottom to distract herself from the worry she feels as they get closer to Idaho. Phoebe has told Sal she thinks Margaret Cadaver, who is Phoebe's next-door neighbor and a close friend of Sal's dad, is an axe-murderer. While Sal is jealous of Margaret Cadaver and wants to believe bad things about her, she knows Phoebe is just imagining things. And Sal has more to worry about at school, including the journal project for English class that everyone did but her.

But travelling with Gram and Gramps often leads to trouble, as Sal's father warned her when she left. In South Dakota, while getting robbed, Sal's Gram is bitten by a water moccasin and has to spend the night in the hospital.

Chapter 17: In the Course of a Lifetime

As they drive through the Badlands of South Dakota, Sal continues telling her grandparents the story of Phoebe. Phoebe asks Sal why she hasn't told her dad about Margaret Cadaver being an axe murderer. Phoebe warns Sal her dad could be next and asks Sal if she'd live with her mother if her dad is killed. Sal tells Phoebe she'd live with her Momma, but she knows that couldn't happen.

Mrs. Winterbottom, Phoebe's mother, tries to help her two daughters with their problems. But Phoebe is annoyed at her mom's interventions. Prudence acts the same, and Sal notices both girls often ignore their mother. Phoebe finds another note on their door, 'In the course of a lifetime, what does it matter?' Phoebe thinks it is from the lunatic, but doesn't notice when her mother is very upset.

Sal notices. She thinks Phoebe and her sister Prudence are being very mean to their mother, and that in the course of a lifetime, it matters how you treat your mother. This makes her very sad about her own mother, who she ignored the day before she left for Idaho.

Chapter 18: The Good Man

Sal then reminisces on her father. We learn that her dad is Gram and Gramps only surviving son. He had three brothers, but they all died young. Sal's dad is thoughtful and enjoys simple things, and this makes Sal's Momma feel like she is never as good as he is.

Before Sal's Momma left, she began to act meanly to Sal's dad, saying he wasn't human and he was just too good. This confused Sal a lot. But now we learn that Sal's mother left so she could ''learn about what she was''. We also learn that Sal's mother never even told her goodbye. Instead, she wrote a letter promising to be back soon.

But she lied, and when they found out she wasn't coming back, Sal's dad carved her name into the cement of their fireplace. Soon after this, Sal says, the letters started coming from Margaret Cadaver. Sal's dad says he needs to leave Bybanks and decides to sell the farm. Sal has a complete meltdown, so he agrees to rent it instead, but he insists he is haunted by her mother. So they moved.

Sal almost wishes her father wasn't so good, so she could blame him for Momma's leaving.

Chapter 19: Fish in the Air

Sal gets back to Phoebe's story. She does warn her dad about Margaret Cadaver. He doesn't believe she is a murderer, and tells Sal again he has to tell her something about Margaret Cadaver. Again, Sal refuses to listen to him.

At school, Mr. Birkway assigns Sal a mini-journal to write. That day, as she and Phoebe walk home from school, they run into the same teenager who knocked on Phoebe's door earlier in the story…the one Phoebe is convinced is a lunatic. So they run screaming back to Phoebe's house, where they notice Mrs. Winterbottom is all upset about something.

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