From what I could gather, Mr. Winterbottom worked in an office, creating road maps. Mrs. Winterbottom baked and cleaned and did laundry and grocery shopping. I had a funny feeling that Mrs. Winterbottom did not actually like all this baking and cleaning and laundry and shopping, and I'm not quite sure why I had that feeling because if you just listened to the <em>words </em>she said, it sounded as if she were Mrs. Supreme Housewife. (6.5)
What kinds of words does Mrs. Winterbottom use? How does she talk, and what exactly does that tell us about her? Plus, check out how observant Sal is of the Winterbottoms. Why do you think that is?
And Mr. Winterbottom was playing the role of Father, with capital <em>F</em>. He sat at the head of the table with his white shirt cuffs rolled back neatly. He still wore his red-and-blue-striped tie. His expression was serious, his voice was deep, and his words were clear. (6.11)
Mr. Winterbottom sounds kind of boring. It's interesting that Sal tells us he's "playing the role" of father, but not actually being a father, as though he is an actor in a play, rather than someone who truly loves and cares about his family.
I think that deep down Phoebe thought it was nice too, and she wished her own parents would act more like the Finneys. She couldn't admit this, though, and in a way, I liked this about Phoebe – that she tried to defend her family. (9.11)
Even though Sal gets so annoyed and mad at Phoebe and her behavior, she is always able to see the good in her. And hey, what are true friends for if not to keep on liking you when you're being a total pain? Sal is a true friend; she'll stick by Phoebe through thick and thin. And since we're talking about family, it's important to notice that what Sal admires in Phoebe is her loyalty to her family. Friends are important, but family is number one.
When I mentioned about Ben asking where my mother was and my saying that she was in Lewiston, but that I didn't want to elaborate, Gram and Gramps looked at each other. Gramps said, "One time my father took off for six months and didn't tell a soul where he was going. When my best friend asked me where my father was, I hauled off and punched him in the jaw. My best friend. I punched him dang in the jaw." (12.7)
Gram and Gramps have a way of giving advice without making it seem like they are giving advice and without sounding all high and mighty. They treat Sal like an equal, and they tell her stories (like this one) that show that they can relate to the way she feels, and that they're not perfect either.
Mrs. Winterbottom stabbed the brownies with a knife. "Want one?" she asked.
"They're burned," Phoebe said. "Besides, I'm too fat."
"Oh sweetie, you're not too fat," Mrs. Winterbottom said.
"No, you're not."
"I am, I am, I am!" Phoebe shouted at her mother. "You don't have to bake things for me. I'm too fat. And you don't have to wait here for me to come home. I'm thirteen now." (17.10-15)
Yeesh. The image of Mrs. Winterbottom stabbing brownies is kind of a violent one. Why do you think she might be stabbing brownies? Maybe it's because Phoebe is a serious pain in the butt. Maybe it's because she feels so far away from the people she loves.
I could tell that Mrs. Winterbottom was trying to rise above some awful sadness she was feeling, but Prudence couldn't see that. Prudence had her own agenda, just as I had had my own agenda that day my mother wanted me to walk with her. I couldn't see my mother's sadness. (17.22)
Sal really is wise beyond her years. Not only does she recognize that Mrs. Winterbottom is sad (when the rest of the Winterbottom family is totally clueless), she also recognizes that it's not just any sadness: it's "an awful sadness," and it's a lot like her mother's.
At first my father did not argue with me. He let me behave like a wild boar. (18.23)
Why do you think Sal's dad let her behave like a "wild boar"?
When I told my story of Phoebe to Gram and Gramps, I mentioned none of this. They knew it already. They knew my father was a good man, they knew I did not want to leave the farm, they knew my father felt we had to leave. They also knew that my father had tried, many times to explain to me about Margaret, but that I wouldn't hear it. (18.25)
It's amazing how much Sal doesn't have to tell or explain to her grandparents. It's amazing how much they already know, simply by using their intuition. It's so awesome that Gram and Gramps don't force Sal to tell them how she is feeling and doing. Instead, they are content to hear her tell Phoebe's story. It's as if they know that in telling Phoebe's story, she is also kind of telling her own. These are pretty much the best grandparents ever.
I apologized for being ornery and for upsetting him. He put his arm around me and we sat there together on the porch, two people being completely pitiful and lost. (22.79)
You know what we notice here? The fact that Sal describes herself and her father as being "two people" rather than "a father and a daughter" or "a family." It seems like she and her dad are equals in many ways, and they are both struggling equally hard to move on without Chanhassen Hiddle.
Dinner at the Finneys' was an experience. When we arrived, Mary Lou's brothers were running around like crazed animals, jumping over the furniture and tossing footballs. Mary Lou's older sister, Maggie, was talking on the telephone and plucking her eyebrows at the same time. Mr. Finney was cooking something in the kitchen, with the help of four year-old Tommy. Phoebe whispered, "I am not too optimistic about the possibilities of this meal." (25.1)
The Finney household is chaotic, and the Winterbottom household is orderly. The Finney's show each other affection, the Winterbottoms do not. The Finneys eat fried chicken and buttered beans, the Winterbottoms eat cholesterol-free meals. Which family is happier? Hey, we're just saying.
All through dinner, I kept thinking of Bybanks, and what it was like when we went to my grandparents' house for dinner. There were always tons of people – relatives and neighbors – and lots of confusion. It was a friendly sort of confusion, and it was like that at the Finneys'. (25.31)
The Finneys remind Sal of Gram and Gramps and their home in Bybanks. Through the Finneys we readers get a glimpse of what the Hiddle family used to be like, back in the days before Sal's mom left home.
On the roof, in the wide open air, they lay there kissing each other. It made me feel peculiar. They reminded me of my parents, before the stillborn baby, before the operation. (26.27)
We wonder if it must be comforting or frustrating for Sal to see a family that reminds her of what her own family used to be like. How would you feel if you were in Sal's shoes?