Summary: Chapter 12

Solomon cut across the sky, Solomon gone home.

See Important Quotations Explained

After spending the night with Sweet, Milkman visits Susan Byrd, simultaneously meeting a young woman named Grace Long, who seems smitten by him. It turns out that Susan Byrd’s deceased father, Crowell, had a sister named Sing, but Susan claims that this Sing never married and left Virginia in a wagon headed for Massachusetts, not Pennsylvania. Disappointed that his clues seem to have led him to a dead end, Milkman leaves dissatisfied, forgetting his watch, and taking with him only a box of cookies and Grace Long’s address in the box.

Walking along the path from Susan’s house, Milkman realizes that his family history means a great deal to him and that it is important to find “his own people.” As he journeys back to Sweet’s place, he encounters Guitar. Guitar accuses Milkman of stealing the gold from the cave and shipping it to Virginia. Although Milkman denies doing so, Guitar is convinced of Milkman’s treachery, announcing that he saw Milkman helping an old man lift a heavy crate onto a weighing platform back in Danville. Having never seen Milkman perform a selfless act, Guitar finds Milkman’s assisting of the old man suspicious. Believing that Milkman has stolen the gold, thereby preventing Guitar from carrying out his mission for the Seven Days, Guitar promises to do everything possible to kill him. When Milkman asks why Guitar left him a warning about his impending demise at Solomon’s store, Guitar replies that it was the least he could do for a friend.

Following his conversation with Guitar, Milkman spends another night with Sweet, and then returns to Shalimar. The events of the few previous days make Milkman realize that he sorely misses Pilate. He also sees his parents’ flaws and positive qualities in a more objective light, and understands that their life experience scarred them. Finally, Milkman regrets his treatment of Hagar and becomes aware that he thrived off her mad desire for him because it validated his manhood.

Taking a break from his thoughts, Milkman again hears the local children sing a song about Jay, the only son of Solomon. He memorizes the entire song, according to which Solomon flew home across the sky, leaving a woman named Ryna to cry for him, -weeping that cotton balls will choke her. The song also relates that Jay was raised by a woman named Heddy in a “red man’s house.” As he listens, Milkman realizes that the song is about his grandfather, Macon Dead I, formerly known as Jake, and his great-grandfather, Solomon. He also understands that Susan Byrd did not tell him everything she knew. He resolves to visit her again, thrilled by his discovery.

Summary: Chapter 13

Guitar returns to Michigan to find Hagar, despondent and nude, standing listlessly in his room. Feeling sorry for her, Guitar drives Hagar home, urging her along the way to stop destroying herself over Milkman. Pilate and Reba also try unsuccessfully to cheer up Hagar. Suddenly waking from her catatonic state, Hagar rushes into a flurry of activity, believing that if she only improves her physical appearance Milkman will grow to love her.

Reba pawns her Sears diamond for $200 and sends Hagar on a shopping spree. In a mad rush to make herself over, Hagar dashes from store to store, purchasing a variety of cosmetics and fashion garments: a garter belt, colorless pantyhose, panties, and nylon slips. On her way home, Hagar is caught in a torrential thunderstorm and her purchases are damaged. Nevertheless, she scurries into her bedroom, and, without drying herself, puts on her new getup. When she greets Pilate and Reba, she is a mess: her hose is “ripped,” her white dress is “soiled,” her face powder is “lumpy,” and her hair is “wild.” After a sudden commotion, Hagar collapses into a deep illness and soon dies.