This novel was my first introduction to Creech, in middle school English, and a great intro it was. When Sal Hiddle's mother disappears, she's afraid to explore why until her grandparents offer to let her accompany them on a cross-country trip. At the end, they will find Momma. Sal is determined to go and bring Momma home in time for her birthday, but picks up several other treasures along the way. During the trip, she tells Gram and Gramps about the year Dad "plucked her up like a weed" from Bybanks, Kentucky and transferred them both to Euclid, Ohio. She shares the metaphor-laden story of her friend Phoebe Winterbottom, exploring themes of motherhood, love, death, relationships, and spirituality.
Death is a major theme here; for example, the miscarriage of Sal's baby sibling is discussed. A major character dies from snakebite complications. A woman named Mrs. Cadaver is rumored to hide dead bodies in her home. Mrs. Cadaver's mother, Mrs. Partridge, is an intriguing character but could be off-putting. She seems to straddle the line between dementia and imagined psychic abilities.
As other reviewers note, Sal does some innocent kissing with a boy in her class. She's also ridiculed for kissing trees (because she thinks they taste like blackberries, which remind her of Mom). A minor character is extremely fond of saying, "God" in an irreverent way. Otherwise, this is a lovely novel and chock full of literary devices for English teachers--and English-lovers.