Archives for posts with tag: literature

HandmaidsThe next meeting of the All Good Books group will be on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). The group will discuss one of two books (choose what you wish to read, one or both): The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer. Discussion questions for the Atwood book are posted below. Discussion questions for the Timmer book will be posted later.

Discussion questions for The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. What is a dystopia and how does it contrast with a utopia?
  2. What are some of the events that led to the dystopia in the novel (page 174)?
  3. Were you surprised that the novel was written by a woman? Why or why not?
  4. How would you describe the novel? Imaginative, hopeful, distressing, depressing, unbelievable, or?
  5. The narrator refers to several Colloquialisms from the “before time.” What is the before time?
  6. Authors of science fiction often take events from today’s news and extrapolate them into the future. What events today might lead to the dystopia described in the novel?
  7. Among the colloquialisms in the novel are the following. Have you heard them? What does each mean to you?
    “Waste not, want not.” Page 7
    “I know what you mean” and “I hear where you’re coming from.” Page 11.
    “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Page 52
    “The understatement of the year…” Page 137
    “Time to take stock.” Page 143
    “Context is all.” Page 144
    “Steel yourself.” Page 160
    “Even Steven.” Page 172
    “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.” Page 211
    “What are you waiting for?” Page 291
  8. What is an Eye? An Angel? What is meant by the phrase “under his Eye?” Page 18.
  9. What does the following passage from page 18 of the novel tell you about the society described by Offred and its origins? “I used to be bad at waiting. They also serve who only stand and wait, said Aunt Lydia. She made us memorize it. She also said, Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted. She had a mole on her chin that went up and down while she talked. She said, Think of yourselves as seeds, and right then her voice was wheedling, conspiratorial, like the voices of those women who used to teach ballet classes to children, and who would say, Arms up in the air now; let’s pretend we’re trees. I stand on the corner, pretending I am a tree.”
  10. On page 24, Aunt Lydia says, “There is more than one kind of freedom….Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” Is it possible to have freedom to and freedom from? Explain.
  11. What did Aunt Lydia mean (page 25) when she says “We were a society dying, of too much choice.”
  12. What was the role of the Econowives (described on page 24) in the Gilead society? Do we have a similar position in today’s society?
  13. Did you think the Epilogue added to or diminished the story? Was it necessary?
  14. Offred says on page 19 (with the war with the Baptists raging off-screen) “…I’m ravenous for news, any kind of news; even if it’s false news, it must mean something.” Do you see a parallel today or has one occurred during your lifetime, when news (any news) was better than no news?
  15. In Gilead, men are hung for past crimes (Angel Makers), “Gender Treachery” is punished by death, women are not allowed to write, stores are marked by images rather than lettered names, and one’s clothing is standardized (red, blue, green, black, striped). Why?
  16. Serena Joy is described by the narrator this way (page 45). “She wasn’t singing anymore by then, she was making speeches. She was good at it. Her speeches were about the sanctity of the home, about how women should stay home. Serena Joy didn’t do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making for the good of all.” Is this a case of “do as I say, not as I do?” Or is a contradictory life style sometimes necessary to make political and social gains?
  17. On page 46, the life situation of Serena Joy is described as “She doesn’t make speeches anymore. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.” What’s your reaction to Serena Joy? Is she an admirable character? Pathetic? Powerful? Neglected?
  18. On page 48, the narrator says, “The dishtowel is white with blue stripes. Dishtowels are the same as they always were. Sometimes these flashes of normality come at me from the side, like ambushes. The ordinary, the usual, a reminder, like a kick. I see the dishtowel, out of context, and I catch my breath. For some, in some ways, things haven’t changed that much.” Have you ever had a memory triggered by an object? Describe it and indicate whether the memory was pleasant, painful or just unwanted.
  19. What does “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” mean? Why is it used several places in the story?
  20. At one point in the story, Offred says, “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” What does she mean? Who are these people?
  21. The Red Center’s official name is the “Rachel and Leah Center.” What’s the significance of the name?
  22. What caused the inability of many women in Gilead to bear children. See page 112.
  23. Do you agree with the statement (page 125), “But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.”
  24. Why do you think the Commander want to see Offred alone in his study? Why would he show her an old copy of Vogue (page 156)?
  25. Do you agree “Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.” See page 211.

The next meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will be on Thursday, November 9, 2017. We’ll discuss The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Obsession by Nora Roberts. The group will meet at 7 PM in the Church Library at the Community of Christ, Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas).

The following questions are offered as possible kick starters for the discussion of Ellen Rankin’s The Westing Game, first published in 1978. Questions for The Obsession will be posted later.

  1. One reviewer claimed that The Westing Game met the criteria for an excellent murder mystery because it included an unusual plot, “a nutso bunch of characters” and “more unexpected twists than you can count.” Agree or disagree? Explain why.
  2. The novel has been taught for over 30 years in elementary and middle schools while it also appealed to adults. Why do you think that’s the case? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?
  3. Many mystery novels provide only a single point of view. The Westing Game provided insight into the thoughts of most of the characters. Did that make the novel more interesting? More confusing? Would it have been better if you only had one point of view (a narrator or one participant)?
  4. On page 4, the author says the tenants in Sunset Towers include, “A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.” Which characters in the novel are identified by each label?
  5. On page 29, Sam Westing’s will reads, “My life was taken from me—by one of you!” What did he mean? Who took away his life?
  6. On page 31, Mr. Hoo says, “The poor are crazy, the rich just eccentric.” What does that mean to you?
  7. The novel includes 26 characters: Turtle Wexler, Angela Wexler, Grace Windsor Wexler, Theo Theodorakis, Chris Theodorakis, George Theodorakis, Catherine Theodorakis, Sandy (Alexander) McSouthers, Dr. Denton Deere, Otis Amber, Berthe Erica Crowe, Sydelle Pulaski, Flora Baumbach, Mr. Hoo, Madame Hoo, Sam Westing, Barney Northrup, Julian R. Eastman, Ed Plum, Sikes, Rosalie Baumbach, Violet Westing, Mr. Schultz, Shirley Staver, Alice Deere, Judge J.J. Ford.What do you know about each of them? Is there something about each person’s name that you found significant or symbolic?
  8. Why do you think Sam Westing (and the author) paired up specific heirs to compose the 8 teams at the reading of the will? The teams were: Madame Hoo and Jake Wexler, Turtle Wexler and Flora Baumbach, Chris Theodorakis and Dr. Denton Deere, Sandy McSouthers and J. J. Ford, Grace Wexler and Mr. Hoo, Berthe Crowe and Otis Amber, Theo Theodorakis and Doug Hoo, Sydelle Pulaski and Angela Wexler.
  9. Were there clues you picked up early in the book that helped solve the mystery? What were they?
  10. Why do you think Angela develops a rash on her ring finger?
  11. Why do you think the bomber set off the (first three) bombs?
  12. Did the Westing Game have anything to do with chess? Who was playing chess in the Game Room with Theo?
  13. Did “twins” have anything to do with the Westing Game?
  14. On page 68, why did Mrs. Wexler and Flora Baumbach indicate Turtle’s real name was, respectively, Tabitha-Ruth and Alice?
  15. Why do you think Judge J.J. Ford gave the entire $10,000 to Sandy the doorman? Does she ever realize what she’s done?
  16. On page 92, what does Grace mean by “English-speaking ears?” What issue does her behavior raise?
  17. On page 94, why do you think Sandy describes Mrs. Westing differently than Judge Ford remembers her (after meeting her briefly years earlier)? Judge Ford recalls that, “Mrs. Westing was white. Very white.” What does she mean?
  18. On page 99, Turtle tells Angela, “I didn’t look at your notes or clues, honest.” And then the author notes, “But she had removed the incriminating evidence.” What was the evidence?
  19. Why does Judge Ford consider Sam Westing a manipulative, mean man? Why does Sandy disagree?
  20. Are there secrets held by each of the 16 heirs that we haven’t discussed?
  21. On page 149, the will repeats, “It is not what you have, it’s what you don’t have that counts.” What was missing from the clues?
  22. How did Turtle’s habit of kicking people figure into solving the murder of Sam Westing?
  23. How did you react to the novel’s conclusion? Was it anticipated? A Surprise? Satisfying? Disappointing?
  24. Would you recommend The Westing Game to a pre-teen? To a teenager? To a young adult? To an adult? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?

Please come and join the discussion.

open book on a cloudThe All Good Books group will meet a week later than usual in August (on the 17th rather than the 10th) at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) to discuss The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah.

There are some fascinating discussion questions available online at https://kristinhannah.com/books/magic-hour/book-clubs/. After you read the book, take a look at the 14 questions posted online.

We hope you can join us on the 17th!

The All Good Books group will meet on Thursday, July 13, 2017 in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7:00 PM to discuss The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. You’re invited!

Woman_in_Cabin_10Here are some possible discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe the book? A roller coaster ride? Predictable mystery? Careful attention to detail? Just a fun read? Unexpected twists and turns? Not what I expected? Kept me reading and on the edge of my seat?
  2. Did you find Lo (Laura) a likable, believable character? Why or why not?
  3. What was the connection between the burglary at Lo’s apartment and the events on the ship?
  4. Which characters aroused your suspicions during the story? Who did you think was the woman in Cabin 10? Why? Did that change?
  5. What is Stockholm Syndrome and do you think that effected Lo and Carrie’s relationship?
  6. How effective were the email messages in moving the story forward? Were they necessary? Irrelevant. Red herrings?
  7. What was the connection between the dark haired girl in a Pink Floyd t-shirt on Archer’s phone and the woman in cabin 10? Was that photo relevant to the mystery or a red herring?
  8. Was Carrie a victim, co-conspirator or primary conspirator in the crime on the high seas?
  9. Why did Lo have a change of heart at the end of the novel and decide to move to New York? Did that seem like a normal response?
  10. What happened to the main characters by the end of the book? Lo, Judah, Richard, Anne, Ben, Carrie, and Johann? Others?
  11. How was the mystery resolved and were you satisfied with the ending of the story? Why or why not?
  12. Were there unanswered questions in the plot? If so, what wasn’t covered or finalized in the ending?

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, May 12, 2016 to discuss Fredrik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove” at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS 66208).

Below are some possible discussion questions for our meeting:

  1. If you underlined or highlighted portions of the novel, share one of your favorite quotes.
  2. What events in the novel define Ove for you? How would you describe his worldview and work ethic? Do you know anyone like Ove?
  3. How would you describe Ove and Sonja’s relationship?
  4. Who are the Pregnant Foreign Lady, the Lanky One and their children? How did they meet Ove?
  5. Why do you think Ove’s three worst words are “batteries not included?”
  6. What do you think the narrator means by the following quote? “He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”
  7. In describing Ove’s relationship with his father, the narrator says “They never had much, but they always had enough.” What does that mean to you? Have you heard that phrase before?
  8. Ove’s father, in one of the few topics he would talk about, said, “Engines give you what you deserve….If you treat them with respect they’ll give you freedom; if you behave like an ass they’ll take it from you.” How do you interpret that message?
  9. Ove’s father said, “We’re not the sort of people who tell tales about what others do.” What is the story behind the quote and how did it affect the person Ove became?
  10. Do you agree with Ove “men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say?”
  11. Discuss Ove’s opinions about quality, exchangeability, pride and expertise. Hint: he referred to “the unreserved celebration of mediocrity” and that “one should not go through life as if everything was exchangeable.”
  12. What role does the cat play in the novel? And what does Ove mean when he says, “I’m not running a cat repair company?”
  13. Why was it important that Ove feed the bird only every other day?
  14. Why do you think Sonja was attracted to Ove?
  15. Why did Ove have a hatred for the “men in white shirts?” Who are the “men in white shirts?”
  16. Why did Ove hate buses and decide to drive Parvaneh to the hospital rather than let her take a bus?
  17. Why does Nasanin always draw Ove with colored crayons while everyone else is drawn in black? Who is Nasanin?
  18. Why did Ove and Rune, who once were friends, become adversaries? What role did Rune’s purchase of a sporty BMW have in the separation?
  19. What does the narrator mean by the following quote? “Both men, once as close as men of that sort could be, stare at each other. One of them a man who refuses to forget the past, and one who can’t remember it at all.”
  20. How does Sonja find healing after the accident?
  21. What does the author mean by “all people at root are time optimists?”
  22. How is “loving someone…like moving into a house?” as Sonja used to say.
  23. What does the author mean by “broadly speaking there are two kinds of people. Those who understand how extremely useful white cables can be, and those who don’t?”
  24. Do you agree, “The greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone?”
  25. Why is Ove, as Parvaneh says, “UTTERLY LOUSY at dying?”
  26. What are your feelings about Ove’s final note to Parvaneh?
  27. Was the ending of the book expected? Emotional? Incomplete? Satisfying?
  28. Would you recommend A Man Called Ove to your friends to read? Why or why not?

Come join us on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 7 PM.

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM is the next meeting of the All Good Books club. We’ll discuss “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrick Backman.

The group meets at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation in the Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). Everyone is welcome!

Here are some suggested discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe Elsa?
  2. How would you describe Elsa’s grandmother, Granny?
  3. Who is Britt-Marie and Kent and what relationship are they to Alf? Who is Lennart and Maud and how are they related to the other tenants? Who is the boy with the syndrome and his Mum? Who is the Monster (Wolfheart)? Who is Sam and is there a relationship between Sam and any of the other residents? Who is the woman in the black skirt? Who is Halfie? Who is wurse, Audi and Renault? What’s the relationship between Mum, Dad, George and Lisette?
  4. What do you remember about the Land-of-Almost-Awake? How do you travel to the land?
  5. What is the word jar? Who uses it and why?
  6. Is there a character that you personally identified with or who reminded you of someone you know? Tell us why.
  7. Is Elsa a believable almost 8-year old? Explain.
  8. What happened on the day Elsa was born? What philosophical question does her birth and the corresponding event raise?
  9. Who are in the photos on Granny’s ceiling?
  10. Is there a scene in the novel that had an emotional impact for you? Describe and explain why.
  11. Do you agree that the novel is part fairy tale and part adult story? Would you give it to a pre-teen to read? Why or why not?
  12. What do you view as the important themes of the novel?
  13. In a conversation on the phone, Elsa hears Granny say, ““I don’t want Elsa to know that I am going to die because all seven-year-olds deserve superheroes, Marcel. And one of their superpowers ought to be that they can’t get cancer.” Why are superpowers referenced and emphasized throughout the novel? Who has which superpowers?
  14. Granny says, ““It’s a grandmother’s prerogative never to have to show her worst sides to her grandchild, Elsa. Never to have to talk about what she was like before she became a grandmother.” Why does Granny say this and do you agree?
  15. Have you ever wanted to ask someone, like a parent or relative, a question and never got around to it until it was too late? How is that question related to the novel?
  16. What does the following quote mean? “Because not all monsters look like monsters. There are some that carry their monstrosity inside.”
  17. Would you like a grandmother like Granny? Why or why not?
  18. What is Granny sorry about?
  19. Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
  20. Would you recommend this book to someone else to read? Why or why not?
My_GrandmotherThe next meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will on Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM to discuss “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrick Backman. The group meets at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation in the Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS).
You can always find information on the book club’s schedule, here, on their website at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com.

The All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 7 PM to discuss “The Children Act” by Ian McEwan. We will meet at the Community of Christ congregation in Prairie Village at the corner of 79th Street and Mission Road, in the church library.

To generate some pre-thinking for our discussion, please consider the following questions.

  1. Would you consider Fiona Maye a fair and impartial judge? Do you agree with her ruling in the case of Mark and Matthew? What about her decision regarding  Adam Henry? What, if anything, would you have done differently?
  2. Describe your impressions of Jack Maye. Do you understand his motivation throughout the novel? Would you have forgiven him?
  3. At one point, Fiona reflects on the case of Adam Henry, “It was not her business or mission to save him, but to decide what was reasonable and lawful.” Do you agree that is the role of a judge?
  4. What is your reaction to Fiona’s reminiscence regarding Matthew and Mark when she thinks: “Blind luck, to arrive in the world with your properly formed parts in the right place, to be born to parents who were loving, not cruel, or to escape, by geographical or social accident, war or poverty. And therefore to find it so much easier to be virtuous.” Thoughts?
  5. “Welfare, happiness, well-being must embrace the philosophical concept of the good life,” writes the author. What defines the good life for you?
  6. In Fiona’s thoughts she comments, “the archbishop preferred Mark to die along with Matthew in order not to interfere with God’s purpose. That churchmen should want to obliterate the potential of a meaningful life in order to hold a theological line did not surprise or concern her. The law itself had similar problems when it allowed doctors to suffocate, dehydrate or starve certain hopeless patients to death, but would not permit the instant relief of a fatal injection.” Do you see parallels in Fiona’s two examples? Is the issue black and white on preserving life? If not, what are the conditions or extenuating circumstances that should be considered?
  7. In some passages, like the following, the author is very descriptive. Is it too much? Did you enjoy the use of detail in language? Comment on the novel as an art form. “They entered a glassed-in atrium the height of the entire building. Mature native trees, rather starved, pushed hopefully upward from the concourse, from among the cheerful chairs and tables of competing coffee and sandwich concessions. Higher up, then even higher, other trees rose from concrete platforms cantilevered into the curving walls. The remotest plants were shrubs silhouetted against the glass roof three hundred feet up. The two women went across the pale parquet, past an information center and an exhibition of unwell children’s art. The long straight run of an escalator brought them to a mezzanine, where a bookshop, florist, newsagent, gift shop and business center were ranged around a fountain. New Age music, airy and unmodulating, merged with the sound of tinkling water. The model was, of course, the modern airport. With altered destinations. At this level there was little sign of illness, none of medical equipment. The patients were finely spread between visitors and staff. Here and there were people in dressing gowns, looking rakish.”
  8. Did you feel the pain of Fiona in her personal crisis with Jack? How did it affect her role as judge? Or did it? If you had been Fiona, would you have acted differently as a wife or spouse? As a judge?
  9. If you were Adam Henry’s parents, what would you have done? How would you feel about Fiona’s judgment?
  10. What was the meaning of the kiss?
  11. How would you describe this book? A walk in the park? A doctoral thesis? A love story? Enlightening? Boring? A roller coaster ride? A legal thriller? An artwork in words?
  12. Would you recommend the book to other readers? To other book clubs?
TruthAccordingToUs

January Book Club Selection

The All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 7:00 PM to discuss The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows at the Community of Christ church (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS).

Here are a few suggested discussion questions for the novel:

  1. Who is your favorite character in the novel? Describe your favorite character and share why you chose that character.
  2. Why do you think the author/publisher chose the title for this novel? Would you have selected a different title? If so, what?
  3. Between Jottie, Mae and  Minerva, they are always sharing an old saw (conventional wisdom) with Willa and Bird. Some of the sayings include: “idle hands are the devil’s playground,””least said, soonest mended,””Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive,” “discretion is the better part of valor,” “Rightness is nothing. You can’t live on it. You might as well eat ashes,” and “hatred is a poor bone to chew.” Have you heard these sayings before? What do they mean to you?
  4. Layla in a letter to her brother Lance writes, “I’ve been thinking about history a good deal in the past few weeks, and I believe it fails when it offers only a tepid recitation of events and dates. A successful history is one that captures the living heat of opinion and imagination and ancient grudge.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  5. As Miss. Betts reads some of Layla’s draft history, she comments, “All of us see a story according to our own lights. None of us is capable of objectivity. You must beware your sources.” What did she mean?
  6. At the point in the novel when Jottie is thinking about whether to continue her relationship with Sol, she thinks, “The past was the only thing that really existed; there could be no future that was not based on the past. She had to choose one side or the other, and the side she chose had to be Felix’s.” How did you react to Jottie’s decision at that point in the novel?
  7. Is there a scene in the story that you found especially endearing?
  8. Is there a scene in the book that your found especially tragic?
  9. At one point, Willa is trying to comprehend the world around her and thinks, “In books, even in books like The Beautiful and Damned, things were connected; people did something and then something else happened because of that. I could understand them. But outside, here in the real world, things seemed to happen for no reason that I could see. Maybe there was no reason. Maybe people just drifted here and there, aimless and silly. But no, people had been thrown out of the Garden of Eden for knowing, so there must be something to know, reasons, all the time and everywhere, for the way they behaved. Reasons I couldn’t see yet, no matter how hard I tried.” Any reactions to her quandary?
  10. The novel repeatedly returns to an exploration of the nature of history such as when Layla writes, “I’ve learned that history is the autobiography of the historian, that ignoring the past is the act of a fool, and that loyalty does not mean falling into line, but stepping out of it for the people you love.” Did the novel generate any personal thoughts about the nature of recorded history? Any thoughts you’d like to share?
  11. Do you believe that Sol really loved Jottie? Why?
  12. Can you understand and justify why Felix did what he did? Explain.
  13. How would you describe Layla and Felix’s relationship? Did you see it coming? Did you expect the resolution offered by the author?
  14. If you were to write a sequel to the novel, what would happen next?
  15. How would you describe the book? Was it like a roller-coaster ride? A stroll through the park? A run-away train? A 10th grade history text book?

Light The book club will discuss M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans: A Novel at our Thursday, February 13, 2014 meeting at the Leawood Pioneer Library (7 PM). Here are some suggested questions for discussion.

  1. If you were in Tom Sherbourne’s position, would you have let the lightkeeper’s log book “stay silent” when the baby was found? Do you understand why Tom did what he did? Explain.
  2. If you were in Isabel’s position, what would you have done when the baby was found? Would any of your subsequent actions have differed from Isabel’s?
  3. At what point, if any, during the story did you feel uncomfortable with the Sherbourne’s choices? What would you have done differently?
  4. The author writes “The logbook tells the tale of the keeper’s life in the same steady pen. The exact minute the light was lit, the exact minute it was put out the following morning. The weather, the ships that passed. Those that signaled, those that inched by on a squally sea, too intent on dealing with the waves to break into Morse or— still sometimes— international code, about where they came from or where they were bound.” Any comments or reactions to that passage?
  5. Isabel says, ““Love’s bigger than rule books, Tom. If you’d reported the boat, she’d be stuck in some dreadful orphanage by now.” Do you agree with either the first or second sentence? Explain.
  6. What role, if any, does the war play in the novel? Or is it only background atmosphere?
  7. How did you react to the passage where Isabel thinks, “She knew that if a wife lost a husband, there was a whole new word to describe who she was: she was now a widow. A husband became a widower. But if a parent lost a child, there was no special label for their grief. They were still just a mother or a father, even if they no longer had a son or a daughter. That seemed odd. As to her own status, she wondered whether she was still technically a sister, now that her adored brothers had died.”
  8. Does the amount of grief experienced by Bill and Violet Graysmark and Tom and Isabel Sherbourne outweigh the grief of Hannah Roennfeldt and mitigate the choices made by the Sherbournes? Is there ever a case where “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?”
  9. The author states, “History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent. That’s how life goes on— protected by the silence that anesthetizes shame. Men who came back from the war with stories they could have told about the desperate failings of comrades at the point of death say only that they died bravely. To the outside world, no soldier ever visited a brothel or acted like a savage or ran and hid from the enemy. Being over there was punishment enough. When wives have to hide the mortgage money or the kitchen knives from a husband who’s lost the thread, they do it without a word, sometimes acknowledging it not even to themselves.” Do you agree? Is there such a thing as authentic or true history?
  10. When Tom is talking to Bluey about marriage and parenting, he thinks “Sometimes, you’re the one who strikes it lucky. Sometimes, it’s the other poor bastard who’s left with the short straw, and you just have to shut up and get on with it.” Is that true? Or is it a jaded, cynical view of reality? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  11. In a conversation with Ralph, Tom says, “Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot ’em both, and then it’s too late.” Have you ever faced a situation where right and wrong were so entangled that the choice was unclear? How do you react to Tom’s statement?
  12. The author states, “A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.” Is that an accurate metaphor? Why or why not?
  13. Tom reflects, “there are different versions of himself to farewell— the abandoned eight-year-old; the delusional soldier who hovered somewhere in hell; the lightkeeper who dared to leave his heart undefended. Like Russian dolls, these lives sit within him.” Are we all different versions of ourselves hidden like Russian dolls within ourselves?
  14. Hannah remembers a conversation with her husband Frank when he said, “Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.” He laughed, pretending to wipe sweat from his brow. “I would have to make a list, a very, very long list and make sure I hated the people on it the right amount. That I did a very proper job of hating, too: very Teutonic! No”— his voice became sober—“ we always have a choice. All of us.” Your reaction?
  15. Is The Light Between Oceans a romance or a tragedy? Is it a story about the struggle between good intentions and evil or about the fogginess of moral choice?
  16. The novel closes with a very melancholy passage. What are your thoughts on the passage: “There are still more days to travel in this life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way. Scars are just another kind of memory. Isabel is part of him, wherever she is, just like the war and the light and the ocean. Soon enough the days will close over their lives, the grass will grow over their graves, until their story is just an unvisited headstone. He watches the ocean surrender to night, knowing that the light will reappear.”