Walk Two Moons is the story of Salamanca "Sal" Tree Hiddle, a 13-year-old girl who is dealing with the loss of her mom, moving to a new town, making new friends, and developing her first crush when she embarks on a journey with her grandparents to retrace the cross-country route her mother took when she left her months ago.
Sal moved from Bybanks, Kentucky to Euclid, Ohio for a fresh start. Her father wanted to leave their beloved farm where he "saw her mother everywhere". Euclid was where her father's friend, Margaret Cadaver, lived which made Sal uneasy. Her mother left months ago but she was not ready for her father to move on. Margaret's neighbor is the excitable Phoebe Winterbottom who is certain a "lunatic" is after them. Phoebe seems to find trouble around every corner and tells Sal exaggerated stories that she believes Margaret could be an axe murderer!
As Sal and her grandparents head cross country to Lewiston, ID on the same route her mother took months ago, Gram and Gramps revel in sightseeing and taking comfort in all the natural beauty they encounter along the way. But Sal wishes they would hurry up and get there, as she had a superstition that if she could make it by her mother's birthday somehow that would make her mother come back. Throughout their travels, Sal regales her grandparents with the details of Phoebe Winterbottom's life, how a strange young man showed up on Phoebe's doorstep and Phoebe was sure he was a lunatic meant to kill them. There were also mysterious notes left on Phoebe's porch with insightful messages like "Everyone has his own agenda" and "In the course of a lifetime, what does it matter?". Meanwhile, Sal has noticed that Phoebe's mother seemed very unhappy before she, too, went away without an explanation. In telling the story, Sal sees the parallels between Phoebe's and her own life and begins to understand some of what her mother must have been going through before she left.
On one of their stops, Gram, Gramps and Sal go swimming in a river in South Dakota. Gram is suddenly bitten by a water moccasin snake. With the help of a stranger, they get her medical attention but as they continue on, Gram's health seems to deteriorate. In Idaho, Gram suffers a stroke and has to be rushed to the hospital. Sal takes her Gramps' truck to make the last final leg of the journey to Lewiston on her own. Gramps tells her to "go and do what she needs to do".
It is midnight on Sal's mother's birthday when she arrives in Lewiston at a huge cliff. Police arrive wondering how she could have driven there all by herself. As she's looking down, the cliff the police inform her that a sightseeing bus crashed there months ago and there were no survivors, except one. The lone survivor was Margaret Cadaver. She had been sitting next to Sal's mother and gotten close with her on their cross country trip. Sal finally comes to terms with her mother's death and realizes the truth about Margaret.
After this discovery, Sal's Grandmother sadly passes away. Sal, her father, and Gramps return to Bybanks, KY and lay her to rest. Sal and her father move back to their farm and it is comforting being home. Their friends from Euclid, OH, including Phoebe Winterbottom and Margaret Cadaver, will visit soon. Sal spends time with Gramps remembering stories about her mother and Gram. They play a game where they imagine what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes - one of Phoebe's mysterious notes: "Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins."
Walk Two Moons was published in 1994, and though it is still a classic taught in schools, we acknowledge that some observations and stereotypes about Indigenous peoples within the novel are outdated and potentially problematic. Before reading, as with other classic literature, teachers can discuss the importance of representation and sensitivity with students.