The Newbery Medal winner from 1995, Walk Two Moons is a rich and bittersweet story told by main character Salamanca Tree Hiddle. After her mother leaves their farm in Bybanks, Kentucky, the family learns that she will not return, so Sal and her grandparents set off on a cross-country journey to visit her in Idaho.
Along the way, Sal's grandparent's ask her to tell a story and instantly she thinks of Phoebe Winterbottom. Sal tells them the story of Phoebe, her disappearing mother and the lunatic. Author Sharon Creech weaves in Sal's story so seamlessly yet clearly that we understand the parallels—and the differences—between the two girls' lives.
At one point in the book before Phoebe's mother disappears, anonymous notes start showing up on their front porch containing short phrases like, "Everyone has his own agenda," and, "Never judge a man until you walk two moons in his moccasins." And though these truisms could seem trite or preachy, they aren't. They come along at just the right time and are illustrated subtly and beautifully in the characters' stories.
I absolutely loved the language in this book, especially as it captured Sal's Kentucky upbringing with wonderful descriptive phrases like, "thumpingly hard." Gram, Gramps, Phoebe, and Sal's father all have their own distinct voice and it helps us get to know them a little better. I can tell these characters are going to stick with me for quite some time.
This is one of those books that classifies as young adult fiction because the main characters are in their early teens, yet the story definitely speaks to adults as well. I listened to the unabridged audio edition read by Hope Davis—highly recommended!
Spoiler alert! As a parent, I thinks it's important to know when a book for children involves death. In this case, near the very end of the book we learn that Sal's mother has not left her, but actually died in an accident. And as shocking as it is, it's also kind of a relief that she did not abandon her intentionally. One of the reviews on Amazon suggests that this book is appropriate for grades 6-9, and I agree completely.