The Birds of Sadness {Book Club}

Walk Two Moons

I am so impressed with Sharon Creech, author of  Walk Two Moons. 

Walk Two Moons has quite a cast of characters, and the main ones are so richly complex and likable (and a few unlikeable, but we understand why they are being “donkey stubborn” (okay, that is not the phrase Sal uses, but I have been hunting and hunting. Can anyone help me?))

When I step back and analyze all that the author has included, it is, to use the word of the day, impressive.

We have:

  • Road trips—As Gram, Gramps, and Sal follow the path that Sal’s mom took, they also forge their own way. Between the snake bite (in last week’s section) and the tourist sites, and the sense of knowing what they will find in Idaho, their trip is unique. I appreciate how Sal hears at times rush, rush and at others slow, slow. When you know where you are going, but are not sure what you will find, rush and slow oscillate, don’t they?

 

  • Poetry—ee cummings and Longfellow, no less. And side note, since Phoebe’s story is helping Sal tell her story, I will use this story to tell a bit of my own. My junior year of highs school we were assigned poets. I was assigned ee cummings and my dear friend was assigned Lawrence Ferlinghetti. So, though I know very little about poetry, those two poets have always been dear. I also remember a few random lines of ee cumings poetry. Thank you education! Were you assigned a poet in school? If so, which one?

 

  • Greek mythology—Fav scene in this section? When Phoebe presented on Pandora and said, “‘So Zeus made a sweet and beautiful woman, then Zeus invited all the gods to dinner. It was a very civilized dinner, with matching plates.’ Mary Lou and Ben exchanged an eyebrow message. ‘Zeus asked the gods to give the woman presents—to make her feel like a welcome guest.’ Phoebe glanced at me. ‘They gave her wonderful things: a fancy shawl, a silver dress, beauty—’ Ben interrupted. ‘I thought you said she was already beautiful.’ ‘They gave her more beauty. Are you satisfied?'”

Oh Yes I am. Can’t you just hear someone around Phoebe’s age and level of distress at her mother’s disappearance working matching plates into a presentation on Pandora?

  • Fear/Anxiety—So much believable fear . . . which is also mixed with sadness and grief!
    • Sal anxious about the new life her dad is trying to build (and therefore she must build.). I also wonder in the back of her mind if she is afraid that falling out of the tree and her mom having to carry her caused the death of her baby sister.
    • Sal’s dad anxious about how to begin to incorporate Margaret into his life, while still parenting a child who is deep in the throes of grief over her mom. Will he be able to navigate this uncharted territory?
    • Phoebe deeply anxious about her mom’s disappearance but it showing up in fear of cholesterol, a lunatic, her dad not doing enough, confusion as to why her mom called Mrs. Cadaver, and more.
    • Phoebe’s dad anxious about his wife. That last line of chapter 29! “‘Phoebe, your imagination is running away with you.’ ‘It is not. Mom loves me, and she would not leave me without any explanation.’ And then her father began to cry.”
    • Even Gran and Gramp, I think they have mild anxiety that Sal will not find what she needs on the trip to Idaho to help her with the next level of processing and grieving her mom.
  • But also Hope
    • Referenced in the presentation of Pandora. How in the midst of so much understandable yucky, there is hope.
    • Margaret hoping that Sal will accept her.
    • Sal’s dad hoping the same.
    • Phoebe’s dad hoping his wife will come home.
    • Sal and Phoebe hoping to feel safe in their lives again.

I like how we get a sense of the adults from the kids perspectives. More than that, we see how the adults are doing the best they can in the midst of messy life. I appreciate so many healthy marriages: Sal’s parents, Sal’s grandparents, Gram and Gramps, and Mr. and Mrs. Finney.

In addition to the “Pandora scene,” these two stood out to me. When the teacher asked the kids to draw their soul and Sal noticed they all drew a central shape, like a heart, circle, square, or triangle. “Next I noticed that inside each figure was a distinct design.” What a beautiful picture of a soul . . . there is something universal about them, yet also deeply personal.

When Sal noticed how annoyed she was with Phoebe when Phoebe spent the night and knew that though she loved Phoebe, in that moment she hated her. “I wondered if this is how my dad felt when I threw all those temper tantrums.Maybe he hated me for a while.”

Next week we will figure out what has become of Mrs. Winterbottom, if Sal’s mom is alive or not, who the lunatic is, and how Mr. What’s his name from school and Mrs. Cadaver are tied in with each other.

What scenes stood out to you in this section? Where do you think Mrs. Winterbottom is?! How is this road trip going to help Sal? How will not going on it help her dad? Thank you for reading along!

Leave a comment and you can win one of THREE copies of our next book: The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason.

See you in the comments!

Amy

P.S. Next week we finish  Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. The following week, we will read The Piano Tuner. I found a free version, but it is only available in some countries. Check out if you can get it for free!

22 Comments

  1. Shelly January 15, 2018

    Rich, rich, rich. I have LOVED listening to this book. But, there aren’t clear chapter markings, so I will not remark too specifically. I don’t want to give anything away. I have enjoyed the layered stories woven throughout the book, how one actually remarks on another (like Phoebe’s retelling of Pandora). That one was a not-so-subtle comment on how she thought Sal “mis-treated” her as a guest. I find the characters believable, except the English teacher. As a former high school English teacher, I would NEVER, NEVER read students’ journals out loud. NEVER! So this one just left me wondering what was wrong with Mr. B. How could he be so thoughtless? (Sorry if that is after the reading segment for this week.)

    1. Spring January 16, 2018

      That is funny what I dislike is the layering of stories! I get caught up in one then we’re at a different place! I agree about the English teacher. That is pretty horrific, especially if they weren’t warned beforehand that it would happen

  2. Michele January 15, 2018

    I agree… The reading of the journals just didn’t make sense, especially the parts he chose to read. It wasn’t consistent with his character at all, since he otherwise seems like such an empathetic and sensitive teacher.

  3. Maria January 15, 2018

    I have immensely enjoyed reading along. What a sweet story of feeling lost and feeling found, of feeling loved and feeling forgotten – a story of life. I loved Sal’s understanding of things that matter “in the course of a lifetime” and things that don’t. That is a coming-of-age discovery.

    To me, one of the most poignant parts of this section was when Sal verbalized that Phoebe’s mother’s disappearance had nothing to do with Phoebe. I loved how Gramps and Gram latched on to those words, and highlighted them for their granddaughter who could not even verbalize the guilt she carried about her mother. I love this in so many ways. It’s such a beautiful epiphany for Sal herself, and it was made through her trying to make sense of something for her friend. Community is such a central need for humanity. I also love how such a quirky gramps and gram (are they not the best?) are so in tuned with the needs of their little Sal that they jump all over this moment. I think it’s beautiful.

    And so is this entire book!

    1. Amy Young January 19, 2018

      Maria, I too have loved how Gram and Gramps did not miss that moment!

  4. Michele January 15, 2018

    I didn’t have a chance to comment last week, but I have to throw in that as a native of Madison, WI, I LOVED the description of that city. I have a new appreciation of it as I’ve spent the last two summers there babysitting my nieces. The author has clearly spent time there and it was fun to see it through Sal’s eyes.
    From this section there was so much I loved, but maybe the thing that hit me most was that quote by Phoebe: Mom loves me, and she would not leave me without any explanation.’ There is just so much in that. I love the way she desperately needs to hold onto hope even if it means creating impossible explanations, and I love how it seems to be the center of Sal’s own struggle. And the way her father cries, like it’s hit him that it seems she DID just leave her family with no explanation, and he can’t let his imagination run off like a thirteen year old girl, but has to accept that fact and the loss of innocence it’s going to bring his daughter when she finally accepts it.

    1. Amy Young January 19, 2018

      Yes! “Mom loves me, and she would not leave me without any explanation.” So poignant and powerful. It is simple, yet cuts so deeply, doesn’t it?!

  5. Hadassah Doss January 16, 2018

    I also listened to the story, and listened to it in the car with my girls. We couldn’t put it down, so in a Sundaybfikl if errands, it finished! And my 8-year old hasn’t stopped talking about it. She’s so full of questions! Mostly wondering about things we will discuss in the next section, so I will hold off for now.
    Mi think my absolute favorite part of this book is the friendship between Phoebe and Sal. They seem like such an unlikely pair, and yet their stories connect them in ways that make them inseparable. And yet, neither of them can articulate it, because I don’t think Sal ever really tells Phoebe about her mother. I also really enjoyed the parts about Sal and Ben. Maybe I was hyper sensitive to then because of the little ears in the car listening to a 13 year olds romantic feelings unfold, but the innocence of it all…I wish there were more of that in this world.

    This is not a book I would have picked out myself, or maybe even kept listening to after the first few chapters, but I’m so glad I persevered! It’s definitely one I’ll want to read again!

    1. Amy Young January 19, 2018

      Hadassah I love that you listened with your girls!! And I could image you’d hold your breath with the romantic feelings. I had a similar response thinking of my nieces reading this AND of all of YOU reading it :). Would love to sit down with you and your girls and chat!

  6. Bayta Schwarz January 16, 2018

    I thought the way she uses the “Birds of Sadness” imagery was so powerful. “You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head “, “she looked as if a whole family of birds of sadness were nesting in her hair”, “I could practically see the birds of sadness pecking at his head”, “but Phoebe was busy swatting at her own birds”, “sometimes you just wanted to be alone with the birds of sadness”. What an amazing way to express emotions that are normally so very difficult to put into words!

    1. sarah January 17, 2018

      That’s so funny, somehow I missed your post. I guess we liked the same parts! Also, I missed that quote about wanting to be alone with your birds of sadness. That’s a great one!

      1. Bayta Schwarz January 19, 2018

        And I missed your response 🙂

        How true that Gram and Gramps apparently didn’t seem to have let the birds of sadness nest on their heads. I had missed that as I was reading. Thanks for mentioning it!

    2. Amy Young January 19, 2018

      Bayta, thanks for pulling out the range of uses. I had noticed, obviously since it is in the title, but I had not realized how often and the variety it was used!

  7. Charity January 16, 2018

    I have loved this book for a looonngg time! My husband and I often quote Gramps….(and I am sure you can relate)….’Well, it’s not our marriage bed. But it will do.’

  8. sarah January 17, 2018

    I really appreciated the parts about the “birds of sadness” and how each person seems to be reacting to them differently. Particularly after the disastrous “cholesterol” dinner at the Finney’s, when Phoebe and Sal come in to Phoebe’s house and her dad is washing the dishes. “You could practically see the birds of sadness pecking at his head, but Phoebe was busy swatting at her own birds.”
    And also all the avoided conversations- Sal not telling Phoebe about her mom, Phoebe telling people at school her mom was on a work trip, the mystery of Ben’s mom, even Sal being unwilling to hear where her dad and Mrs. Cadaver met. I guess that feels real to me about grief. Sometimes you tell people more than you expect and then feel weird for having shared something so deep and painful, sometimes you don’t say anything at all, which gets more and more awkward as time goes on, and then sometimes you give weird answers in the moment and later think, “Why the heck did I say that?”
    I’m amazed at how Gram and Gramps don’t seem to have let the birds of sadness nest on their heads- they’ve already lost a couple sons, but they still seem to have retained their joy in life and sense of adventure.

    1. Dorette Skinner (@reporterofhope) January 17, 2018

      So true.. I also like this idea and your observation that Gram and Gramps did not seem to allow the birds of sadness to nest on their heads.

    2. Amy Young January 19, 2018

      Gram and Gramp had experienced so much loss, yet somehow had processed it and didn’t let it be the only part of their story. I want to be like them :)!!

  9. Phyllis January 17, 2018

    Thank you for choosing this book. I had never heard of it before, and, like someone else said above, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to read it on my own, even if I had. After the first week I was on the fence about it, but now I’m over the fence and in to the camp of I like it. It’s beautiful.

    1. Amy Young January 19, 2018

      Me too! At first I wondered why my nieces love this book so much . . . but I can see why!

  10. Dorette Skinner (@reporterofhope) January 17, 2018

    I loved the mysterious quotes (probably help that I love quotes in general) and how it adds depth and clarity to the themes in the book. I don’t like the choice of the surname Cadaver, because it’s too visual and can be misleading of her character. Overall it is a fun read and not something I would have picked for myself, but really ended up enjoying!

  11. Amy Young January 19, 2018

    Winners have been drawn and notified. I have LOVED this discussion. Knowing we are all reading means the world to me :).Thanks!

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