Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
We wouldn't argue you with you if you said that this book has two different plots to analyze. In fact, we wouldn't argue with you if you said that this book has many different plots to analyze! In addition to the story of Sal's journey to Lewiston, Idaho, there's also Phoebe's journey to find her own mother, too. These two stories weave in and out of one another like a braid. And then, of course, there's also Gram and Gramps' story. We are going to look at Sal's story in particular, but don't let that stop you from mapping out Phoebe's story and Gram and Gramps' story on your own.
Sal Left Her Heart in Bybanks
In Sal's story (as she tells it to us), the initial situation involves a move to a town that she really hates. Euclid, Ohio is nothing like her hometown of Bybanks, Kentucky. Her mother has just left the family. Sal misses her a lot, so she and her grandparents (Gram and Gramps Hiddle) go on a road trip to pay her mother a visit.
On the Road
Explanation/Discussion: Sal really wants to get to Lewiston, Idaho in time for her mother's birthday. However, her grandparents have a tendency to get into harmless trouble, which delays them on their journey. Sal's sense of urgency is made worse by the fact that she is totally terrified of cars.
One day during their road trip, Gram, Gramps, and Sal decide to go swimming in a South Dakota river. A young man tries to rob them while they are swimming, and Gram is bitten by a water moccasin as they are being held at knifepoint in the water. Yikes. Luckily, the young man helps them find a hospital, and Gram is treated for her snakebite, but she's still not feeling too hot.
Gram Takes a Turn for the Worse
On the drive from Wyoming to Coeur d'Alene, Gram starts to feel and look really sick. When they finally arrive in Coeur d'Alene after a long drive, Gram is unconscious. They take her to the hospital, where she is hooked up to lots of machines. The doctors tell Gramps and Sal that Gram has had a stroke. It's midnight when Sal is allowed to see Gram in the hospital. It's her mother's birthday, the day she is supposed to be in Lewiston. Gram is still unconscious, and Gramps gives Sal the keys to the car and some money. He tells her to go do what she needs to do.
Sal Takes a Turn (or Two) on the Road. By Herself.
It's midnight on her mother's birthday. It's the day that Sal is supposed to be in Lewiston. Sal is super nervous, but she is also totally determined. She drives four hours in the dead of night to an overlook on the road from Lewiston Hill to Lewiston. It's a very dangerous and scary road that winds beside huge drop-offs and cliffs. Will she make it? What will be waiting for her when she arrives, anyway?
The sheriff and his deputy are shocked to discover that Sal has driven herself from Coeur d'Alene. They are sympathetic once they realize why she's made such a dangerous trip – to visit her mother's grave. The sheriff drives Sal back to Coeur d'Alene, and she asks him questions about the bus accident the whole way there. (Turns out Sal's mom died in an accident.) When they get to Coeur d'Alene, Sal learns that her grandmother passed away at 3 o'clock that morning. She hugs her gramps.
Back to Bybanks
Gram's body is sent back to Bybanks. Gramps and Sal drive back to Bybanks where they lay Gram to rest. Sal and her dad move back to their farm, where Sal spends her free time practicing her driving with Gramps, and playing a game in which they imagine what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes. At the time Sal is telling this story, it is July. Her friends from Euclid (Phoebe, Ben, Mrs. Cadaver, Mrs. Partridge, and Mr. Birkway) are coming to visit her next month, and she is very excited.