(4) Base Camp
If you find yourself scratching your head a few times while reading this story, don't worry—you're not alone. There are a couple things going on here that trip readers up. First of all, we're kind of tossed in the middle of the action without too much context. We know that an old woman is traveling from the outset, but we don't know where she is coming from, where she is going, or why she is traveling until we're in the last third of the story.
Plus, because Phoenix is making this journey alone, she spends a lot of time talking to herself, and as readers, we are stuck in her head. If you've ever been trapped on a long trip without some form of entertainment or company, you know how quickly your mind wanders around. Phoenix's thoughts jump just as rapidly. And of course, her thoughts come in her voice, which uses a dialect and vocab that would have been typical for an uneducated, elderly black woman living in rural Mississippi in the late 1930s/early 1940s—but isn't super familiar to readers today.
The good news is that Phoenix's journey takes place in short little episodic bursts, so it's fairly easy to follow along even if you stumble across weird vocab (what's a "cur," anyway (50)?).