Study Guide

A Long Way from Chicago Lies and Deceit

By Richard Peck

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Lies and Deceit

Chapter 1

Now Mary Alice was yanking on my shirttail. We knew kids lie all the time, but Grandma was no kid, and she could tell some whoppers. Of course the reporter had been lied to big-time up at the cafe, but Grandma's lies were more interesting, even historical. They made Shotgun look better while they left Effie Wilcox in the dust. (1.46)

One of the most surprising things that the kids quickly learn about Grandma is that she's not like other adults they know, who believe that you can't lie under any circumstance. Instead, she openly tells big old whoppers right in front of them.

Chapter 2

Grandma was telling one of her whoppers. If she'd found a mouse in the milk, she'd have exploded like the mailbox. She was telling a whopper, and I wondered why. (2.38)

Joey and Mary Alice can see through all of Grandma Dowdel's lies…but they don't call her out on them in the moment. They want to wait and see what Grandma is up to and why she put a mouse in the milk in the first place.

Another whopper, and a huge one. Grandma off on a jaunt and us with her? I didn't think so. She didn't do things that cost. And she never told anybody her business. (2.42)

There's no way that Grandma would be taking the kids off to visit a distant relative that they've never even heard of. She's obviously up to something, and she's setting up a trap for the boys, who will inevitably break into her house when they think she's gone.

Chapter 3
Joey Dowdel

"Grandma," I said, "is trapping fish legal in this state?"

"If it was," she said, "we wouldn't have to be so quiet."

"What's the fine?"

"Nothin' if you don't get caught," she said. "Anyhow, it's not my boat." Which was an example of the way Grandma reasoned. (3.52-55)

Grandma Dowdel has an interesting concept of morality and ethics, which is something that she passes on to Joey and Mary Alice. She knows that trapping fish is illegal, but it's technically fine as long as you don't get caught, right? The same goes for stolen boats.

Chapter 4
Grandma Dowdel

"I'm a blue ribbon winner," Grandma announced, "here for my ride."

"Wha—" Mrs. Weidenbach said.

My brain went dead. (4.100-102)

Everyone is completely flabbergasted when Grandma Dowdel approaches the pilot and demands a free ride on the airplane. She's so fearless and convincing when she lies.

It was just a moment, but somehow I was sure. In that split second when we'd all looked up, I thought Grandma had switched her pie's card with Rupert Pennypacker's. It was a desperate act, but as Mrs. Weidenbach had said, these were desperate times. (4.75)

How sneaky. Grandma Dowdel switches out the cards on the pies while everyone else is distracted so that she's competing with Mr. Pennypacker's pie instead. Too bad hers would have actually won her the competition.

Chapter 5
Grandma Dowdel

"I heard you tell your brother that Vandalia Eubanks was a puppy. I can hear all over the house. I got ears on me like an Indian scout. And I don't sleep." (5.174)

The whole time that Mary Alice has Vandalia hidden in their house, Grandma Dowdel knows what's going on. She just pretends to believe Mary Alice's lies because she wants to help out Vandalia, too.

Chapter 6
The Weidenbachs

"Mrs. Dowdel, you falsified those so-called Lincoln items. They're bogus. I could have the law on you."

"That's right." Grandma gazed above him at the wide-mouthed bass. "The banker throws the poor old widder in the pokey. That'll look real good for your business." (6.122-123)

Even threatening to call the police doesn't work on Grandma Dowdel. She's unapologetic about having made fake Abraham Lincoln antiques, and she's not going to be bullied by Mr. Weidenbach into backing off.

Chapter 7
Joey Dowdel

I stared. We'd covered the Mexican War in school that year. "Grandma, the Mexican War started almost ninety years ago. Even if Uncle Grady is a hundred and three, he'd only have been about my age during that war." (7.133)

Joey suspects that Uncle Grady isn't actually as old as Grandma claims he is, but by now, he knows better than to try and talk her out of her schemes. They're going to claim that Uncle Grady is the oldest settler, and that's that.

Grandma Dowdel

"Ah," Grandma said. "Let me see if I heard right. At my time in life, my hearing isn't what it was."

Mary Alice and I stared at each other. Of all her whoppers, this was Grandma's crowning achievement. She had ears on her like an Indian scout. (7.71-72)

When Grandma tells Mrs. Weidenbach that she didn't hear her, the kids both know that this is the biggest lie ever. Grandma isn't a little old lady who's losing her hearing; she's a force to be reckoned with—and she hears everything that's going on around her.

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