Study Guide

Three Times Lucky Quotes

  • Family

    Lucky three times when Miss Lana took me in like I was her own, and kept me. (3.11)

    Even though Mo doesn't know her biological parents, she still feels super lucky that Miss Lana and the Colonel took her in. After all, she loves them both to pieces.

    Behind my back, Anna Celeste Simpson—my Sworn Enemy for Life—says I'm a throw-away kid with no true place to call home. So far, nobody's had the guts to say it to my face, but I hear whispers the way a knife-thrower's assistant hears knives. (3.13)

    All of Anna Celeste's taunting makes Mo paranoid that people are talking behind her back about how she doesn't have a "real" family. That's probably not the case, but Mo still feels like an outsider.

    "You are family," he said. "You're just not blood, is all. And blood don't count for much anyway. Look at Macon and me." Lavender calls his daddy by his first name, but as far as I know, he's never called him that to his face. (4.27)

    When Mo starts down the path of self-pity because she doesn't have a "real" family, Lavender sets her straight. He reminds her that sometimes blood relatives don't act like real loving parents at all, and that she's lucky to have the Colonel and Miss Lana.

    "Okay, but I better check in with Mama first," he said. He folded his last pancake into his mouth.

    One thing about Miss Rose: She likes to keep track of her baby. (9.70-71)

    Dale is definitely the baby of his family, and because he's so much younger than his brother Lavender, Miss Rose keeps a very close eye on him. When Mr. Jesse turns up dead, Miss Rose just gets increasingly overprotective. Can you blame her?

    I studied her parents' faces: strong faces, with eyes that peered straight into my heart. I wondered if my own people would look into my heart too. "Your people have kind faces," I said. "I wish I'd known them." (11.14)

    Mo is pleased that Miss Lana is giving her old pictures from her childhood, but at the same time she feels an acute sense of loss. She's sad that she doesn't have this kind of family history in her own photo album.

    Mr. Macon rose unsteadily, his face twisted in rage. "There ain't nothing wrong with the way I'm raising my boy," he said, his voice thick. "If anybody's to blame for the way he turned out, it's his mama. Ain't that right, Mo? Who does she think she is, telling me to get out of my own house?" (12.85)

    Mr. Macon's all upset that his wife doesn't want him in the house anymore, but it's his fault that he's lost his family—he's the one who's treated them all so poorly over the years. He really shouldn't expect unconditional love anymore.

    "You know, Mo, I've always thought you were lucky to have two mothers," she said. "Miss Lana, plus a fantasy one." (21.40)

    Anna Celeste's statement may sound like just another insult, but she's actually trying to explain why she's jealous of Mo. After all, her mom is an absolute nightmare, so she'd rather have Miss Lana any day.

    "And I'm sick of hearing about your Upstream Mother. You think you're the only person that ever got thrown away?" he said. "You think Anna Celeste doesn't get thrown away every time her mother looks razor blades at her? You think I don't get thrown away every time Daddy…" (22.72)

    Dale isn't tired of hearing about Mo's Upstream Mother because it's just the same old story time and again—he's tired because he feels like she doesn't appreciate how awesome her family is compared to other peoples'.

    I pictured the Colonel pulling me from the flood, smoothing a bedroll beneath the stars, sitting at Miss Rose's table with his forehead resting in his hands. I pictured Miss Lana struggling in with her arms full of hurricane candy, walking me to kindergarten, writing Mr. Jesse's eulogy. I pictured them laughing with me and scolding me, and teaching me to hold my own at the café. (29.78)

    When Mo thinks about her family, she doesn't think about some random strange woman who is her Upstream Mother. She immediately thinks of the Colonel and Miss Lana and all of the memories they've shared.

    I splashed to the creek bank and zipped through the garden, Dale at my heels. "Colonel!" I shouted. "Welcome home."

    He and Miss Lana started toward me. "Thank you, Soldier," he called, opening his arms. "It's good to be home." (29.90-91)

    At the end of the day, Mo's just happy to have her whole family at home with her. And her family isn't some biological relation she's never met—it's the people who have raised and loved her for eleven years.

  • Friendship

    "She can't," Dale said, swinging his legs over the side of his bed. "Me and Mo are opening the café today." (1.25)

    Only a true friend will wake up at the crack of dawn to help you out with work… for free. That's the kind of friend that Dale is, though, so when Mo tells him that she has to open the café, he hops out of bed and comes along with her.

    "Tomorrow, then." He grinned, grabbing the CLOSED sign and flipping it to OPEN.

    Dale's my best friend. By now, you can see why. (1.42-43)

    Dale doesn't even complain about the fact that they can't go fishing like he wanted and that they have to work instead. He's definitely the easygoing Robin to Mo's Batman.

    Dale exasperates me to tears. He hates fighting. I figure it's because of his daddy. Fortunately, I'm a good enough scrapper for both of us, most days. "Hands up!" I shouted. Dale raised his fists, looking awkward and scared. (7.92)

    This best friendship isn't a one-way street, and Dale's not just always helping Mo out when she gets into scrapes. She's always there for him, too. She's brave and will fight off anyone (or anything) to protect him.

    "Whatever you're thinking, I'm innocent." As I may have noted, Dale doesn't think well on his feet.

    "Dale just now dropped by," I said quickly. "We've started a small business—Desperado Detective Agency. Dale's here to sort clues. Since school's out, we thought it would be okay. Plus, that's the kind of work ethic we got." (8.18-19)

    As a true friend, Mo works hard to cover for Dale when he lets incriminating information slip. She'll even use her fast-talking wiles to divert Miss Lana's attention—and to save Dale from doing something stupid.

    She turned to Starr. "I've known Dale since he was a baby, and I've never known a gentler soul. I can't even pay him to kill a garden snake. The idea that he murdered Jesse is ludicrous. Please stop wasting time on him and find the killer. We're all worried to death." (12.96)

    Dale is terrified that he's going to be tried for Mr. Jesse's murder, but he doesn't realize how many people in town will vouch for him. He's a good kid who has been a good friend to many people, and they'll tell Detective Starr all that.

    "No you ain't," I told him. "You're a juvenile. Besides, even if you do, it won't be so bad. You can bond with the incarcerated side of your family. And I'll bring you your homework assignments so you don't fall behind in school." (13.35)

    Aw, isn't that nice? Mo offers to bring Dale the last thing he'd want while he's in prison… more homework. Still, it's nice of her to think of how she can help him if he becomes incarcerated.

    Lavender laughed. "Thanks for offering, Mo. You're a true friend. But don't worry your pretty head. Sam and I will come up with the cash for the car. All you got to do is keep my desperado brother here out of trouble." (16.45)

    Mo has a loud mouth and a temper, but she's willing to help her friends at any costs. She even offers to help Lavender raise the extra thousand bucks that he needs. He doesn't believe that she can do it, but he doesn't know how resourceful Mo is.

    Dale leaned away from her. "She already said she don't know," he said. "Plus, Mo's a kid. If somebody's thinking, I think it should be you and Starr." (22.35)

    Dale usually doesn't stand up to authority, but when Deputy Marla starts bugging Mo about any money that the Colonel might have, he snaps back at her. He's not going to let his best friend get bullied.

    "Nobody?" He dropped the reins and stared at me, so angry his lips went pale. "You got people driving out here to sit with you, bringing you food. You got Skeeter helping. You got Sal breaking her family rules for you. You got Anna Celeste helping, and she can't stand you. You got, me, and Mama, and Lavender. You got a town full of nobodies, in case you haven't noticed," he said, his voice picking up steam. (22.71)

    Mo's been so busy feeling sorry for herself since Miss Lana's disappearance that she hasn't taken the time to feel grateful for all the friends around her. Everyone in town is surrounding her with their love and care, and she doesn't even notice it.

    Dale sat up on the settee. "There's no point in arguing when she gets like this," he said. He sighed and scanned the cords binding Mr. Macon's hands and feet. "You're safe, Mama," he said, his voice soft. "And Mo and me are partners. I'm going too." (27.29)

    Dale's scared of a lot of things, but he's not going to let his fear get in the way of helping out his best friend. He'll follow Mo to the ends of the earth… even if that means confronting a known murderer. Gulp.

  • Community

    "I don't see why you do that," he said, watching me. "Everybody in town knows that door won't lock."

    "I don't do this for everybody in town; I do it in case of strangers. You can't be too careful about strangers. That's what the Colonel says." (1.34-35)

    Tupelo Landing is a pretty insular place and strangers don't often come along. It's the kind of safe town where you can leave your small business unlocked, but Mo still makes a show of pretending to unlock the door… just in case there are out-of-towners looking on.

    By 7:30 half the town had crowded into the café and rising seventh grader Skeeter McMillan—tall, slender, freckles the color of fresh-sliced baloney—had claimed the counter's last spot. (1.80)

    The café is such a popular meeting place for everyone in town that they show up by 7:30AM during the summer. Even the kids are up early enough to drop by. What's up with that?

    "Somebody's made a mistake," I said. "I served Mr. Jesse his lunch not eight hours ago. He stiffed me on the tip, just like always. He's fine. Turn by Miss Blalock's barn up here," I said, pointing. "We can take the back way to Mr. Jesse's, through the woods. He'll straighten this out." (6.4)

    Mo is completely shocked and in denial that anything terrible could happen in their safe little community. After all, she just saw Mr. Jesse this morning and everything was fine—he can't possibly be dead.

    The Colonel offers Karate Night as a public service, same as Jaycees on Tuesdays and Miss Jennifer's Ballroom on Mondays. Wednesdays we hold Emergency Bridal Showers. (6.22)

    The café doesn't just serve food, it's a kind of community meeting hall for all the residents of Tupelo Landing. They even have regularly planned events like Karate Night and Ballroom.

    "I hear the Tyson brothers found Jesse's body at Fool's Bridge. And-"

    "Who told you that?" Starr asked, his voice sharp.

    "Everybody. It's all over town." (6.80-82)

    Poor Detective Starr. He's trying so hard to keep his investigation contained, but he doesn't realize how close-knit the Tupelo Landing community is, and how gossip spreads like wildfire. All of his leads are out in the open.

    "No one's on their own in the eternal sense of things, Mo," she said. "If no one else volunteers, we'll have a service at the café."

    "A funeral? For Mr. Jesse?" I said. "Do you think anybody will come?" (8.49-50)

    Mr. Jesse wasn't all that popular in life because he was a mean, stingy old man, but that doesn't mean that the town will forget him when he's gone. Mo is skeptical, but Miss Lana assures her that everyone will show up for the funeral.

    I surveyed the crowd. The café's customers stood in dwindling patches of shade, asking questions, making up answers, and passing them along as fact. (11.26)

    Everyone in town goes where the action is, which can be a little annoying for Detective Starr and his team. They even take lunch right next to the crime scene so they can gossip about who killed Mr. Jesse.

    Lavender, Dale, and me showed up for his service early, only to find the church parking lot packed. People streamed toward the glistening white church in busy, crooked lines, like ants heading for a sugar cube. (15.2)

    Just like Miss Lana predicted, Mr. Jesse's funeral is standing room only. The townspeople may not have very many nice things to say about him, but they'll still show up to pay their respects.

    For the rest of the night, light flooded our house and yard as Starr's people and our neighbors searched for Miss Lana. Deputy Marla found the double footprints along the café wall. "There was a scuffle. Looks like he dragged her the last few feet," she told Starr, avoiding my eyes. (18.56)

    Even in the worst moments (like finding out that Miss Lana has been kidnapped), Mo can be sure that she's not alone. The whole community rallies around her and helps search for one of their own.

    By noon, half the town draped themselves over Miss Rose's yard, chatting and eating lunches they'd brought over themselves. Thes and Reverend Thompson nudged in among the Azalea Women, who'd claimed the garden table. Atilla Celeste and her mother sat by their Cadillac, eating grapes and carrot sticks. Skeeter's folks spread a blanket on the lawn. (21.20)

    Tupelo Landing is the kind of place where you don't have to invite people over for lunch because they just randomly show up. It's a good thing that Miss Rose is used to this kind of thing and doesn't get annoyed at the whole town setting up for lunch in her front yard.

  • Love

    Lavender's handsome in the NASCAR way, and if I was old enough I'd snatch him up and marry him before sundown. I've asked him plenty of times already, starting the day I turned six. (4.24)

    Mo is totally head over heels in puppy love with Lavender, Dale's handsome nineteen-year-old brother. Instead of being speechless in front of him, though, Mo constantly asks him to marry her. What a plucky girl.

    "I think I know what you mean about Miss Lana."

    He looked up at me, his expression suddenly as fragile and vulnerable as a new fawn. "You do?"

    "Yes, sir," I said. "I miss her too." (4.90-92)

    The Colonel is a pretty closed-off guy when it comes to his emotions, but Mo knows that he's actually sensitive deep down inside. And just like her, he loves Miss Lana more than anything.

    For the first time since Lavender walked through the door, Miss Rose actually looked at me. Her face softened, and she reached up to brush the hair from my eyes. "Sometimes I think you love Lavender near as much as I do," she said. (5.131)

    Mo loves Dale's family (minus his mean dad) just as much as she loves her own. After all, if she's going to eventually marry Lavender as planned, she has to be a part of the family, right?

    "Me too," I hesitated, staring toward my dark bedroom. "I can leave my door open tonight if you'd like. That way I can hear you, if you need me."

    I caught the flicker of a smile in his dark eyes. "That might make me feel better," he said. "Perhaps I'll sleep on the sofa. That way it will be easier to find me if I call." (7.12-13)

    The Colonel isn't sleeping on the sofa because he's scared for himself, he's sleeping there so that he can keep an eye on Mo. He may not shower her with verbal affection all the time, but he obviously loves her a lot.

    She kissed my face. Her kisses are as soft as rose petals. "I missed you too, sugar," she said. "And for future reference, your summer curfew is eight p.m. Sharp. And the Colonel and I didn't have a fight, exactly." She sighed. "What is it with that man?" (8.19)

    Love is complicated sometimes. Even though Miss Lana loves the Colonel wholeheartedly (and vice versa), they sometimes have a hard time understanding each other. But she knows that he'll always come back home to her when he's ready.

    What happened next will live on as one of the great moments in history: Lavender smiled, bent down, and kissed my face.

    My first kiss! And it was from Lavender! (18.38-39)

    This is all Mo's ever wanted: Her prince charming is kissing her on the cheek, and even though it's totally platonic, Mo is beyond thrilled. A kiss on the cheek is a pretty big deal when you're eleven.

    Miss Rose sailed across the kitchen, her green eyes worried. "Oh, Mo," she said. "I'm so sorry." Her arms closed around me, and my eyes filled with hot, frightened tears.

    I sobbed like a first grader.

    "We'll find Miss Lana," she said, smoothing my hair. "Don't worry. We'll find her." (18.82-84)

    It's a good thing that Dale's family loves Mo like she's one of their own. When the Colonel and Miss Lana go missing, she's going to need a family of some sort to lean on while Detective Starr searches for her guardians.

    "Why would anybody want to take Miss Lana? I mean, she's nice but she drives the Colonel so crazy he stays away half the time." He glanced up from the scrapbook. "I mean that in a good way," he said. "I love Miss Lana."

    "I know. I love her too." (19.26-27)

    Everyone in town is reeling from Miss Lana's kidnapping, not just Mo. After all, she runs the café that serves as the hub of their community, and they just want her to come home safe and sound.

    I will always love your mother for letting you go, Soldier, and I will always love you for holding on. (20.50)

    The Colonel isn't a terribly emotional man in person, but when he writes Mo a letter about how he found her, he gets a bit sappy. It's obvious that he loves her very much and is glad that she floated down the creek and into his arms.

    "She's right here," Starr said, stepping aside.

    Miss Lana ran toward me, her arms open.

    "Thank God," the Colonel murmured as her arms wrapped around me. "Thank God." (27.92-94)

    The relief that Mo and the Colonel both feel when they find Miss Lana alive and unharmed is palpable. She's the center of their universe, and they can't imagine a life without her. It's true love for sure.

  • Lies and Deceit

    I tried not to sound impressed. "You stole Mr. Jesse's boat?"

    He studied his fingernails. "I wouldn't say stole," he said. "But I did borrow it pretty strong." (1.39-40)

    Mo is usually the one getting into trouble in their little friend duo, so she's actually impressed when Dale admits to stealing Mr. Jesse's boat. It's not the right thing to do, but it sure is fun.

    The café gasped and I gave Dale a sharp kick in the shin. "I mean, it's Dale," he said, his eyes filling with tears. Dale's family is like that. Let the Law come within twenty yards of them, and every male over the age of six—uncles, brother, father, cousins—starts lying his fool head off. (2.30)

    What is it with Dale and his family? They all start lying as soon as they're around law enforcement, and Dale is no exception. If he's not careful, Detective Starr is going to become suspicious of what he says.

    "A couple years ago, maybe."

    Dale's face reflected my shock. The Colonel never lies. My shock went molten in a heartbeat. "You can stop picking on the Colonel," I shouted, stepping on the Pepsi crate for extra height. (2.104-105)

    Uh-oh, this isn't good. Now two people Mo loves (Dale and the Colonel) are lying through their teeth to Detective Starr. Why won't they just step up and tell him the honest truth? What are they so afraid of?

    "You may not know this, but Mr. Jesse was like a father to me," I said. The Colonel's right eyebrow drifted up. "Okay, not like a father," I said. "More like an uncle, maybe. A stingy, selfish uncle who was secretly nice inside." (6.10)

    Mo is telling the kind of lie that people tell when they try to think the best of the dead. Mr. Jesse was always mean and stingy toward her (and never gave her a good tip), but Mo still tries to paint him in a flattering light.

    "Catfish?" I suggested. It was all bunk, the idea of the Colonel fishing. The Colonel's only fishing story involves a stick of dynamite and a bushel basket. (12.57)

    Poor Detective Starr—everyone in Tupelo Landing tells him lies and gossips about his investigation so that all of his clues become common knowledge. Even Miss Lana won't tell him where the Colonel really is. What's a detective to do?

    Starr looked up from his notes. "No kidding," he said. "That was real cordial."

    "Sure," Dale said. "Mr. Jesse was a real cordial man."

    Starr scratched an eyebrow. "Well, I guess I'm a little surprised," he said. "From what folks have told me, I didn't think Jesse Tatum was a particularly cordial kind of guy. Did you find him cordial, Miss Rose?" (13.63-65)

    Dale isn't lying because he doesn't want Detective Starr to know what passed between him and Mr. Jesse. Instead he just doesn't want his mother to hear the horrible things that mean Mr. Jesse said about his family.

    "I'm not charging Dale with anything," Starr said. "If you let him ride out in cuffs I'll take them off of him as soon as we get to the café. Dale's no killer, I know that. But there's a chance the killer's watching this investigation, and if he thinks Dale's our suspect, he might get sloppy." (13.111)

    Detective Starr figures that the easiest way to lure a murderer out of hiding is to arrest someone else publicly. He asks Dale to be his fake suspect, even though everyone knows that Dale couldn't possibly murder someone.

    "The double-chinned lady with the jealous husband," I said, pointing to Mr. Jesse's girlfriend. I winked at Lavender and sat down.

    "Me?" she sputtered. The crowd turned. "I barely knew Jesse Tatum, and my husband doesn't have a jealous bone in his body," she said. "We were at a shag contest in Myrtle Beach the day Jesse died. Anything else you've heard is a lie." (15.45-46)

    Leave it to Mo to spill peoples' secrets during Mr. Jesse's funeral and to point out his married girlfriend. She doesn't even realize that she's making things super awkward for the woman and her husband.

    "It was a lie," I said, finding my voice again. "Dale's daddy told it after the car crash that brought the Colonel to town and made him forget his life." Somehow, it didn't sound so good out loud. "The point is, Slate might think that rumor about the money is true. I'm thinking that's why he kidnapped Miss Lana." (20.35)

    There's a rumor going around that the Colonel has a suitcase full of cash, but it isn't true. Still, lies can motivate someone like Robert Slate to track down the Colonel and Miss Lana and hold them for ransom.

    "Deputy Marla and I got a lot in common."

    He snorted. "No you don't. She's playing you."

    "Playing me? Why would she? There ain't nothing to win."

    "Yes there is, you just can't name it yet," he said. "Believe me. She's as much as a con as my uncle Mike, and he's doing three to five." (22.46-49)

    Mo thinks that Dale is just being crazy and paranoid when he starts suspecting Deputy Marla, but it turns out that he's onto something. She's definitely not to be trusted.

  • Justice and Judgment

    Only Mr. Jesse hung behind. "Don't see why folks care about a murder a half day from here when they don't give a Fig Newton about my boat," he said, pushing his three dollars across the counter and holding out his hand for change. (2.118)

    Leave it to someone as selfish as Mr. Jesse to not care that another human being has been murdered. Instead he's wondering why the police don't concentrate on the real injustice here—the fact that his boat's been stolen.

    He shook his head and his lips went tight. "I don't know. The police are wondering the same thing," he said, "not that they have enough sense to figure it out. Never underestimate the idiocy of our criminal justice system, Soldier." (6.13)

    The Colonel doesn't have that much faith in the criminal justice system and doesn't think that the police will be that helpful in finding Mr. Jesse's murderer. Instead, he trusts his eleven-year-old kid more.

    "Oh for heaven's sake," Miss Lana said, her hands going to her hips. "That house is Rose's, not yours. Her father left it to her. If it wasn't for her good name and good graces, you'd have been locked up years ago. You never gave her anything except a couple of good-looking kids, a mountain of bills, and a heart turned to stone with grief." (12.95)

    Miss Lana is usually super nice to people, but she decides to tell Mr. Macon how it is when he complains about Miss Rose kicking him out: He deserves her telling him to leave after all that he's done.

    "Rose, I'm not going to lie. We don't have many leads. If you'll agree to this, we'll watch Dale like he's our own until this case is closed," he said. "And we'll hope Mr. Jesse's real killer makes a mistake—either because he thinks he's in the clear, or because he doesn't like someone else taking credit for his work. Either way, mistakes work in our favor." (13.115)

    Detective Starr doesn't have many clues to go off of, so he's going to have to use some unconventional police work methods. It's a good thing that Dale and Miss Rose are willing to play along with him.

    "Rose, we're doing everything we can to find your friend," Starr said. "I have people scouring the woods, and we've set up roadblocks on US 264 and I-95. Deputy Marla is preparing to search the area's vacant houses and barns. Rose, has Lana mentioned having difficulty with anyone? At the café, or in Charleston?" (18.88)

    Once Miss Lana goes missing, Detective Starr immediately snaps into action. He's not going to let her just disappear without a trace like that—this guy's going to do his job and bring her home.

    "Are you two sure?" Starr demanded, and we nodded. He ran his finger across his eyebrow. "Better safe than sorry," he said. "Marla, notify the Highway Patrol. Tell them Robert Slate has a hostage and may be headed to Winston," he said. "And tell them he might be driving one of Dolph Andrews's missing cars. (18.112)

    Detective Starr is actually really capable of real police work and knows what he's doing. It's not his fault that he trusts the wrong person in tasking Deputy Marla with tracking down Robert Slate.

    Sam slit open a honey bun with his pocketknife. "Mo, if I could I'd go over there and snatch a knot in whoever's taken Miss Lana. If you ask me…"

    "Have a Nab," Lavender interrupted, holding out a pack of orange crackers. "Starr's got this under control, Sam. All we got to do is keep cool. Right, Mo?" (21.30-31)

    Even Lavender's friends—who don't hang out with Mo all that much—would be willing to take down Robert Slate for her sake. But Lavender thinks that talking about vengeance and going rogue isn't going to help matters. Oh, if only he knew what Mo and Dale were planning…

    "You thought maybe the Colonel was in on the heist, so you had the number run without telling me," he said, his voice flat. "What if it had come back the other way? What if it was a part of the loot? Were you going to tell me then?" When I didn't answer, he shook his head. "I thought we were partners," he said. (22.69)

    Dale is totally hurt that Mo went ahead with the investigation without him. After all, they're supposedly partners in their little detective agency. So how could she go behind his back and check out the Colonel without him knowing?

    She narrowed her eyes. "Let's see. Marla sat at my table and plotted against us, helped kidnap my friends, and held a gun on you and Dale. If you flattened her tires, Mo, I believe I could take it in stride." (25.21)

    Miss Rose isn't usually one to condone her kids destroying other peoples' property, but this time she'll give them a pass. Deputy Marla totally deserves every bit of inconvenience Mo and Dale put her through.

    Slate and Deputy Marla were charged with kidnapping the Colonel and Miss Lana, and with murdering Mr. Jesse and Dolph Andrews. Mr. Macon turned state's witness. (29.5)

    Everyone gets what they deserve at the end of the book, much to Mo's satisfaction. And even though Mr. Macon doesn't get jail time like the others, he's at least out of the picture when it comes to Dale and Miss Rose.

  • Truth

    So far, my life is one big, fat mystery. At the heart lies this question: Who is my Upstream Mother, and why hasn't she come for me? (3.2)

    Mo doesn't have a lot of answers about her life and where she comes from. Mostly, she just wants to know who her biological mother is and if she'll be snatched up by her "real" family someday.

    My heart lurched. She'd seen Dale returning Mr. Jesse's boat, sure as my name's Mo LoBeau. I put my hand in my pocket and closed my fingers around my half of Mr. Jesse's finder's fee—money we tricked him out of. (6.62)

    Uh-oh… Things aren't going to be good for Dale if Detective Starr finds out the truth about the boat and how Dale stole it before returning it to Mr. Jesse for reward money. Mo has to figure out a way to keep him from learning the truth.

    I shook my head. "The problem is, Starr's headed down the wrong path and you're standing at the end of it." I drummed my fingers against my knee. "We could tell the Colonel or Miss Rose about Mr. Jesse's boat. They could talk to Starr." (7.68)

    After some time, Mo realizes that the best thing to do is to tell the truth. Too bad Dale's so scared of going to jail forever that he doesn't want to admit to stealing the boat… especially if it means that he'll be accused of Mr. Jesse's murder.

    She held out a crumpled scrap of paper and adjusted her reading glasses. "'Mama,'" she read. "'I am a murder suspect over at Mo's if you need me. Please do not worry. Your loving son, Dale.'" She glanced up. "Is that the note you're referring to?" (10.10)

    Honesty may be the best policy, but Dale doesn't exactly make the truth easy on his poor mother. When she finds the note about how he's a murder suspect, Miss Rose obviously freaks out.

    "All right," he said. "I walked the boat up the creek to Mr. Jesse's dock, and I knocked on the door, like I said. Mr. Jesse come to the door in his pants and his undershirt, and he unlatched the door and pushed it open, and…" Dale took a deep breath. "And he said, 'What are you doing on my door stoop, you no-good son of a white trash drunk.'" (13.69)

    Poor Dale has to tell Detective Starr all the mean things that Mr. Jesse said to him when he returned the boat. It's obvious that he's ashamed of what he said about Mr. Macon… especially because it's the truth.

    Thes popped to his feet, his round face red and glistening. He loosened his bow tie. "Everybody thinks Mr. Jesse was cheap," he said. "But he wasn't. Every Saturday night he slid a hundred dollars under the church door. He did it for eleven years that I know of. Even in hazardous weather." (15.52)

    The Reverend's kid says something nice about Mr. Jesse when no one else will—even though they're at his funeral service. He's the only one who knows the truth about the donations that Mr. Jesse gave to the church every single week.

    "Sure," I said. "Anna Celeste has the best girl's voice in our class." It was true-ish. Sort of. We all sing like bullfrogs. "I bet you're proud to have her in your family, Mrs. Sampson. You should be." (17.26)

    Anna Celeste may be Mo's sworn enemy for life, but Mo still doesn't like to see a kid getting bullied by her own mother. She sticks up for Anna Celeste and says that she has a good singing voice because it's the truth… and because she wants Anna Celeste's mom to stop being such a meanie.

    "My undercover man? What are you talking about?" He spun the laptop around and squinted at the mug shot. "That's Robert Slate, a bank robber. He broke out of prison a few weeks ago. He's a wanted man." (18.104)

    Oops. It turns out that Dale is totally wrong about the guy who's been following him around for days. He's not an undercover police officer at all—he's an escaped convict. Yikes.

    He shrugged. "Nobody said anything about--"

    "I've seen the marks. If he tries it around me, I'll take him down." He cocked an eyebrow. "I'm a born scrapper, plus I have karate skills," I reminded him. (22.80-81)

    Dale doesn't need to tell Mo about how Mr. Macon beats him; she's figured out the truth all on her own. And she hates Mr. Macon for it and vows to beat him up if Dale ever needs her to. What a friend.

    "Shut up, Mo," Mr. Macon snapped. "You got too much mouth. No wonder your mother threw you away." Dale froze, and I saw the Colonel's hands tighten on his gun.

    Finally, someone had said it out loud. And out loud, the words felt surprisingly thin. (26.57-58)

    All this time, Mo's assumed that she'd shatter when she heard someone say the "truth" about how her real parents threw her away. But once Mr. Macon says it, she realizes that those words aren't true at all—she isn't just a piece of garbage that someone tossed.

  • Memory and the Past

    I was born eleven years ago, during one of the meanest hurricanes in history. That night as people slept, they say, the rivers rose like a mutiny and pushed ashore, shouldering houses off foundations, lifting the dead from graves, gulping down lives like fresh-shucked oysters. (3.9)

    Mo doesn't have some boring old birth story like other kids. No, her story of how she came to join her family is pretty crazy and includes a hurricane, floating down the creek on a raft, and being found by the Colonel after he crashed his car.

    The Colonel came to town the same stormy night I did, crashing headfirst into a pine at the edge of town. Some people say he lost his memory in the wreck. Others say he lost it before he got in the car, or he wouldn't have been out in a hurricane. Either way, he climbed out of that car free of every memory he'd ever owned. (3.68)

    Mo doesn't have any memories of her life before Tupelo Landing because she was just a newborn when she floated down the creek and into the Colonel's arms. But the Colonel was a grown man. He lost all of his memories because of the car crash… and hasn't regained them since.

    "That's me prior to blossoming," she said. "I was just about your age." I turned the page. "And these are my parents sitting in the shade of our oak tree. There's no telling how many Sunday afternoons we spent there. This was before we had air-conditioning—a hundred degrees, a hundred and three…" (11.13)

    Miss Lana is the only person in the family who remembers her life before coming to Tupelo Landing, but she doesn't talk about it all that much because she doesn't want to make things uncomfortable for Mo and the Colonel.

    "I saw him sneak up in the moonlight, and slide a white envelope under the door. After that, I staked out the door for a couple of weeks. It was him, all right." (15.90)

    Only Thes has good memories of Mr. Jesse giving the church a hundred dollars every single week. Everyone else's memories of Mr. Jesse have to do with him insulting them or being stingy with tips.

    A photo fluttered from the scrapbook as he closed the door. In it, a young Colonel and Miss Lana stood arm in arm in front of an old church, smiling at me. The wind whipped Miss Lana's hair around her face. I laid it on the table, clicked off the light, and settled back into bed. (19.39)

    Without the Colonel and Miss Lana here to take care of her, Mo has to find comfort in her memories of them and in the scrapbook that Miss Lana gave her. Hopefully they'll come back soon so that they can all make new memories together.

    "We introduced ourselves, and suddenly Lana and I were best friends. After a while we went inside, and there was that old striped suitcase lying open, full of baby things. And beside the suitcase was a stack of cash. The Colonel scooped the cash into the suitcase and closed it, and then he and Macon laughed about the Colonel's suitcase full of cash." (20.19)

    Apparently all of these rumors about the Colonel having a suitcase full of cash were started by Mr. Macon—and he didn't even believe it when he first said it. But even though the rumors aren't based in truth, they've still put the Colonel and Miss Lana in huge danger.

    In that instant, your billboard careened ashore on a wall of water, cracking the back of my head. I reached for balance and touched what I thought was a puppy. Then you grabbed my finger. My God, I thought. It's a baby. I fainted dead away. (20.49)

    The Colonel's memories of meeting Mo for the first time are pretty dramatic. Neither of them showed up in Tupelo Landing in a normal way—instead they floated in during a terrible storm.

    "I don't know." I hopped down and peeked inside. Newspaper clippings? I scanned the headlines: Slate Found Guilty. Slate Gets Life. Underneath lay a legal pad of notes—all of them in the Colonel's scrawl. My mouth went dry. Why would the Colonel have notes on Slate? (23.64)

    What's the deal with all of the Colonel's newspaper clippings about Robert Slate's trial way back in the day? Why would he have all of these details saved? The possibilities make Mo feel nervous.

    "Soldier," he said, straightening the clippings. I slipped into the chair beside him and waited. "I will be honest with you, my dear. When Lana told me about these papers, I hoped she was just being dramatic. But after looking at them, I realize I was somehow involved in Slate's robbery," he said, his voice thick with grief. "I can't imagine I'd have these notes if I weren't. Apparently, Slate had at least one accomplice. I hope I'm not that man, but we have to prepare ourselves. I could be." (27.10)

    Mo can't even go to the Colonel for reassurance that he wasn't a bank robber because he simply doesn't remember. The Colonel has completely forgotten the earlier parts of his life, and he's as in the dark as anyone else.

    "When I found him a week later, he held a beautiful baby—and not the first memory of me." She blinked back tears as she stood there, alone, curls framing her face. For an instant, she looked like the photo of herself as a young girl, prior to blossoming. "I did the only thing I could," she said. "I stayed, and hoped he would fall in love with me again." (29.60)

    Miss Lana sure is a trooper for love. She recalls when her fiancé—the Colonel—lost his memory and she just had to stick around in the hopes that he'd love her again. How romantic and sad.

  • Identity

    "It's not like the Colonel to lie," he said. "Of course, he's always been a mystery. We don't really know where he's from, or who his folks are." He flushed. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded, Mo," he said quick. (4.26)

    In a place like Tupelo Landing, a lot of your identity is tied up in who you're related to and your ancestors, but that's not the case for Mo and the Colonel. They don't know anything about their families—and that's why Mo feels like an outsider.

    "You try to figure out your life every time you get close to a birthday, Mo, and you ain't done it yet. I wish you'd leave it alone," he said, slumping against the door. "I'm tired of hearing about it. There's nothing wrong with the people you got." (5.10)

    Dale is sick and tired of hearing about Mo's quest for her "real" family and the fact that she's trying to figure out who she is and where she comes from. He thinks that she's just Mo, and that's good enough.

    She smiled. "In the existential sense, we all travel alone, don't we?" she said. "At times I feel it like a dull, aching pain, right here," she said, bringing her hand to her heart. "Don't you? Like a child yearning to go home." (12.73)

    Miss Lana is definitely messing with Detective Starr when he asks her if she was traveling alone, but in a way she gets at the heart of what it's like to be a human being. She gives him the most philosophical answer possible.

    "There is nothing common about knowledge," she replied. "The fact that I haven't driven doesn't mean that I can't. Now," she said, tilting her head. "This vehicle is new to me. Where is the ignition?" (13.12)

    Everyone knows that Miss Lana cannot drive and has never driven, but she's not willing to let that fact define her. Instead she gets into the Thunderbird and immediately starts careening down the road, almost crashing into everything she meets.

    Miss Rose looked at Dale. "Baby?"

    Dale squared his shoulders. "Don't call me baby," he said, and held out his hands. (13.120-121)

    Dale may be considered the baby of Miss Rose's family, but he's not going to let that label follow him forever. When he agrees to be handcuffed and led away from the crime scene, he shrugs off that nickname. He's not a baby anymore.

    Strange? The Colonel? That wasn't exactly a news flash. "Strange, how?" I asked.

    "Well, he called me baby, for one thing."

    "Baby? He never calls you baby."

    "And he called you Moses, for another." (17.78-81)

    How odd. When the Colonel calls home after disappearing following Mr. Jesse's death, he doesn't sound like himself. The difference in the way he talks is what tips Miss Lana and Mo off to something being terribly wrong.

    That's how Macon found us the next day—me unconscious on half a billboard, you nestled in my arms, nursing on the pocket of my uniform. The half billboard said: "…Café…. Proprietor." Our path seemed clear. (20.49)

    Everything that the Colonel has become in Tupelo Landing came about through happenstance. After he lost his memory, he chose his next occupation based off of something totally random—the billboard that Mo floated in on.

    I looked Mr. Macon in the eye. "Maybe she did throw me away and maybe she didn't," I said. "But if she did, she only did it once. You throw your people away every day that rolls around, and it sure ain't because something's wrong with them." (26.59)

    Mo's not going to let Mr. Macon tell her that she's a piece of trash that her parents threw away. She knows that he's more of a piece of garbage than she'll ever be because he throws his perfectly nice family away all the time.

    "You're taking those kids with you? You're all crazy," Mr. Macon snarled as Dale trotted to his room for rain slickers. "That boy's a coward. He ain't going to be nothing but in the way."

    The Colonel shook his head. "A coward? Dale's already twice the man you'll ever be," he said, slipping the pistol in his pack. (27.34-35)

    Mr. Macon just won't stop making the mistake of underestimating his son and calling him a coward. Dale's turned a gun on him and tied him up, and Mr. Macon still can't see that he's a brave kid.

    The Colonel backed away like he'd seen the Devil himself.

    "God help me," he sobbed, sinking onto Mr. Jesse's sofa and hiding his face in his hands. "I'm a lawyer." (28.51-52)

    Oh no… The Colonel probably would have liked it better if he found out that he was a part of Robert Slate's gang. Instead, though, he has to reconsider everything that he's ever known about himself, especially his eternal hatred of lawyers.

  • Perseverance

    "We are safe, but there is a killer among us. We must prepare to defend ourselves if necessary. And the best defense is what, Soldier?"

    "A good offense," I said. "You've told me a million times." (6.15-16)

    No wonder Mo is so tough and doesn't give up in the face of danger—she's been trained by the Colonel, who reminds her that the best defense is a good offense. That's useful when it comes to dealing with escaped murderers.

    "Technically, this isn't inside my jurisdiction, but your mayor's asked me to investigate and I've agreed," he said. "Besides, I have a hunch this may tie in with the murder I'm investigating in Winston-Salem. Does anyone have a problem with that?" (6.90)

    Detective Starr isn't about to give up on this investigation or Tupelo Landing, even if he hasn't received the warmest of welcomes. He's going to investigate here until he figures out who killed Mr. Jesse.

    I took a deep breath. "Calm down. We'll both think." He settled into my rocking chair, the one Miss Lana used to rock me to sleep in when I was a baby. "We'll do like in science with Miss Retzyl," I told him.

    "Science," he moaned. "I'm sunk."

    "Remember what she told us. Define the problem, then solve it." (7.64-66)

    Dale is just about ready to give up on his life because he thinks he'll get pinned for Mr. Jesse's murder, but Mo won't give into despair yet. She still has to go through the scientific method to see what the best course of action would be.

    "It's not nuts, and you're not doomed. You're desperate, is all. And it's like Miss Lana says: Desperation is the mother of invention." (7.74)

    Talk about a pity party. It's a good thing that Dale has Mo to snap him out of his self-pity and make him think about how to get out of this conundrum. She won't let him just sit there and not do anything to save his own skin.

    "We need to hurry too," I told Dale. "We gotta get to the crime scene."

    "Us?" he said. "The crime scene?"

    "Of course," I said, ignoring the syrup on his chin. "We're professionals." (9.67-69)

    Mo takes her job as an amateur detective very seriously and decides that she needs to go visit the scene of the crime to collect clues. She's not going to give up, even if Dale is a little nervous.

    Slipping past the bay tree where Starr had tied his crime tape, I headed for the bend just below Mr. Jesse's. I froze as Starr's voice sliced through the honeysuckle. (11.45)

    Some crime scene tape and a warning to not cross it won't hold this girl detective back. Mo defiantly crosses Detective Starr, though he winds up forgiving her because she immediately finds the murder weapon.

    Blackmail. Atilla had enough on Dale and his whereabouts the night of the murder to shake me down for eternity—another reason to clear Dale's name. (12.13)

    Now Mo has another reason to not give up on her amateur investigation: She has to clear Dale's name so that evil Anna Celeste will stop shaking her down for free meals. What an opportunist.

    Starr stared at her for a moment. "Miss Lana, I need to talk to Dale and his mother. If you see them, please tell them I'll be at Jesse Tatum's place all afternoon. If I don't see them by the end of the day, I'll come looking for them. And when the Colonel gets in, let him know I'd like to talk to him too. You," he said, looking at me. "Stay away from my crime scene." (12.97)

    Mo meets her match in Detective Starr. Even though she tries to argue with him and distract him with her endless chatter, he gets right to the heart of things: He's going to talk to Dale and the Colonel, whether she likes it or not.

    I made a decision. "So? My entire life's a long shot. Dale, we'll come up with the thousand dollars. We might as well," I said as his mouth fell open. "We can't do much detective work with you grounded and with Plainclothes Phil following us." (16.40)

    Mo's optimism helps her to succeed in even the most impossible of situations. Lavender's been depressed for days about being a thousand dollars short, but Mo jumps in and helps him raise that much money in a single afternoon. She's a born entrepreneur, this one.

    He bit his lip. "I don't know. I hear the Blalock place's haunted and that everything's just like she left it. And Lavender says Miss Blalock's TV comes on at odd times, and she changes the channels herself."

    I snorted. "Don't be a baby. Five minutes. You'll be a hero."

    He sighed. "Five minutes, Mo, but that's all." (24.11-13)

    Mo's not going to let Dale's fears about an abandoned house stop them from looking for Miss Lana and the Colonel. She wears him down until he agrees to come with her, even though he's completely spooked. As much as she pushes ahead, you might say Dale pushes through his fears.