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I wanted everything to be like it <em>was</em>. I wanted to be back in Bybanks, Kentucky, in the hills and the trees, near the cows and chickens and pigs. I wanted to run down the hill from the barn and through the kitchen door that banged behind me and see my mother and my father sitting at the table peeling apples. (4.2)
We are in awe of how specific Sal's memories are. We are also struck by the fact that this thirteen year old's hopes and dreams don't have to do with clothes, boys, or any material things. She just wants her family and her home back. Poor Sal.
"See? I'm almost as good as your father!" She said it in a shy way, laughing a little. I felt betrayed, but I didn't know why. (6.32)
Is this not one of the most interesting moments in the whole book? The word "betrayed" is a very strong and powerful word, especially when someone uses it to describe her relationship with her mother. Why in the world would Sal feel betrayed by this offhand comment from her mother?
When my mother left for Lewiston, Idaho, that April, my first thoughts were, "How could she do that? How could she leave me?" (10.12)
If we were in Sal's shoes, we would feel angry, too, that our mother had left us. But put yourself in Chanhassen's shoes for a bit. Knowing what you know now, how do you think Chanhassen Hiddle felt when she left home for the first time?
I had not said anything about what had happened the day before—about being scared down to my very bones when I thought they had left me. I don't know what came over me. Ever since my mother left us that April day, I suspected that everyone was going to leave, one by one. (11.3)
We are struck by how much fear Sal lives with on a daily basis. She must be scared all of the time. What's worse, she doesn't feel she can tell anyone about her fears. She keeps them all bottled up inside.
The morning after my father learned that my mother was not coming back, he left for Lewiston, Idaho. Gram and Gramps came to stay with me. I had pleaded to go along, but my father said he didn't think I should have to go through that. (16.11)
Do you think it was right for Sal's father to not let her come with him to Lewiston? Put yourself in Dad Hiddle's shoes. Why do you think he made that decision?
On the day after he found out she wasn't returning, he flew to Lewiston, Idaho, and when he came back, he spent three days chipping away at the fireplace hidden behind the plaster wall. Some of the cement grouting between the bricks had to be replaced, and he wrote her name in the new cement. He wrote <em>Chanhassen</em>, not <em>Sugar</em>. (18.20)
You know what's weird? We never really learn how exactly Dad Hiddle feels right here. Is he sad, angry, or scared? Sal won't tell us. However, in describing the way that he spends three days chipping away at a fireplace, we understand that he is feeling all of those things. Sometimes a person's actions speak louder than words, and Dad Hiddle hacking at that fireplace tells us much more than a few adjectives ever could.
Besides, I was too busy throwing the most colossal temper tantrums. I refused to move. I would not leave our farm, our maple tree, our swimming hole, our pigs, our chickens, our hayloft. I would not leave the place that belonged to me. I would not leave the place to which, I was convinced, my mother might return. (18.22)
We don't blame Sal for being so upset. It would be really hard to leave the only home you've ever known, let alone all the things that remind you of your mother. Knowing what you know now, why do you think Sal was, at this point, so convinced that her mother might return home?
At last, he took down the For Sale sign and put up a For Rent sign. He said he would rent out the farm, hire someone to care for the animals and the crops, and rent a house for us in Euclid. The farm would still belong to us and one day we could return to it. (18.23)
Dad Hiddle is so full of grief that he wants to make sweeping changes to his life. He wants to leave behind everything that reminds him of his wife. However, he learns to compromise. Instead of making drastic changes, he makes a temporary change. Instead of forcing change, he lets change happen the way it wants to happen, and leaves room to take back his decision.
Then he said, "Sal, you're trying to catch fish in the air. Your mother is not coming back." (19.15)
This is the first time that we hear Sal's father directly tell her that her mom is not coming back. Does Sal believe him at this moment? We also love the way Dad Hiddle talks, using colorful expressions like, "you're trying to catch fish in the air," which reminds of the mysterious messages that are left on Phoebe's doorstep.
Phoebe looked over his shoulder and read his note aloud: <em>I had to go away. I can't explain. I'll call you in a few days</em>. (20.28)
Why doesn't Mrs. Winterbottom tell her family in person that she is leaving and that she'll be gone for a few days? This is another moment in which Mrs. Winterbottom reminds us very much of Sal's mom when she left home. Maybe it's just too hard to say goodbye.
My father came to the doorway and said, "People usually come back."
Now I can see that he was just talking in general, just trying to be comforting, but then – that night – what I heard in what he said was the tiniest reassurance of something I had been thinking and hoping. I had been praying that a miracle would happen and my mother would come back and we would return to Bybanks and everything would be exactly as it used to be. (20.47-48)
It's amazing that Sal is still holding on to the hope that her mom might come home one day. She really can't accept this huge change in her life. She needs help – someone to talk to – and it seems like she can't really talk to her dad, even though she loves him.
I was uneasy because everything that happened at Phoebe's that morning reminded me of when my mother left. For weeks, my father and I fumbled around like ducks in a fit. Nothing was where it was supposed to be. The house took on a life of its own, hatching piles of dishes and laundry and newspapers and dust. (22.14)
So much of the change that Sal experiences is completely and totally out of her control. And that makes it hard to cope with. What do you do when the life you knew is turned upside down? Well, one thing Sal learns is that, although she can't always control change, she can control the way she reacts to it.
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