“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance

Pages:  272

Published:  June 28th, 2016

Awards:  Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Memoir and Autobiography;  New York Times #1 Bestseller; Named by The Times as “One of six books to help understand Trump’s win”

Format:  E-book

 

This is a memoir from the point of view of a “hillbilly”  growing up in the Rust Belt of America.  He is an anomaly of sorts in that he was able to escape the circumstances of  his past and become such a success story.  His mother was an addict and abusive.  He, as a child, was a victim of her abuse.  She had a rotation of husbands and boyfriends continuously entering and leaving their lives.  Despite this, he was able to move on.  After high school, he joined the marines and served in Iraq.  Then, he went on to Ohio State and Yale Law School.  His story drew me in right away.  He tells his story through this lens:  “…for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.”

He tells his own life story alongside statistics and study data of the area, its people and culture at large.  I found this a fascinating read from a voice in a corner of the world we do not often hear from.  It provides certain insights and offers plenty of discussion points.  It is incredible that he had the resilience of character combined with the alignment of certain factors that gave him the will and drive to succeed as he did.  He comes across with great humility attributing his success to these factors that did align in the right way for him.  He could have just as easily, perhaps more easily fallen into a life of addiction and poverty.

Mamaw is a crucial supporter for J.D. Vance and a relentless voice encouraging him to be more, to think bigger for himself.  Mamaw and Papaw had moved to Ohio for factory jobs from southeastern Kentucky alongside so many others.  There is a reference to Dwight Yokam’s song “Reading, Rightin’, Rt. 23” and how relatable this was to Mamaw as well as much of Appalachia at that time.  When J.D.’s mother and aunt were growing up, Papaw was an alcoholic and the relationship between the parents was stormy, even violent at times.  Mamaw eventually kicked Papaw out and becomes a guiding force and bright light for J.D. as well as for many other of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, even though this stability was not provided for her own children. Papaw serves as her sidekick, still living in his separate house, sober now.

There is a fair amount of discussion within the book about how Appalachia and the South went from firmly Democratic to firmly Republican in less than a generation.   According to this book, there was a perceived unfairness to unemployment checks, whereby those not working would seem to actually have more luxuries, like cell phones, than those who were working hard.  Also, in the realm of housing, people could live in Section 8 housing with help from the government and be neighbors to others who are paying their full share.  Obama was apparantly unpalatable to the hillbilly people because he was so educated and spoke so differently from them.  They did not feel they could relate to him.  Oh, and maybe there was some racism involved too (but this point was strangely mentioned almost as an afterthought.)  This is a class of people, strongly united in their identity, but left feeling hopeless and disenfranchised with the loss of industry where they were previously employed.

This culture of blue collar worker with their tight knit community has higher than average levels of drug and alcohol dependence, divorce, and poverty.  The children of this community are less likely to go on to college.  The men are more likely not to work.  Those that do go off to college are unlikely to come back to their home towns.  Thus, there occurs a  phenomenon referred to as “brain drain.”  This cycle is self perpetuating and reinforcing.  It is “a culture of social decay” as J.D. Vance puts it.  There is also a “learned helplessness, ” in other words, a feeling that there is nothing these people can do to change their own circumstances.

Politically, this book is very interesting.  J.D. Vance blames the hillbilly culture for their own situation.  He believes in hard work and personal responsibility despite hardships.  His views are very conservative.

J.D. Vance is a venture capitalist in Ohio hoping to give back to the community he came from.  I will be very interested in seeing how he does give back, especially after painting such a bleak outlook for the potentiality of a solution to the problems faced by these people.  He does say that the one thing he’d most like to change about the white working class is “the feeling that our choices don’t matter.”  With his law background, it will be interesting to see if he decides to jump into politics at some point.  He certainly seems interested in public policy, although skeptical of the magic bandaid.  This is an interesting, though provoking book providing insight into a region, a class of people, as well as a pivotal period in history.

J.D. & Mamaw                               J.D. Vance

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Do you feel that you learned more about the culture of Appalacia through this novel?  Do you feel it was accurately portrayed?  Why might some people in Appalacia take issue with this novel?
  2. Discuss the guiding forces in J.D. Vance’s life that allowed him to succeed.  Discuss the role of the military in shaping his perspective and work ethic.
  3. Discuss the psychological effects of J.D.’s background on his current personal life.
  4. Why is social capital important?  How does this change for the author through his life?
  5. How would you describe J.D. Vance’s political views?  If he were a politician, who policy changes would he lobby for?
  6. Explain this “learned helplessness” that J.D. Vance talks about.
  7. Why would Donald Trump as a presidential candidate appeal to this group of people?  What do you think they hope from him?
  8. Discuss Vance’s feeling of dislocation upon graduating from Yale. How does he come to terms with them or does he?
  9. Towards the end of the book, Vance asks himself, “How much is Mom’s life her own fault?  Where does blame stop and sympathy begin?”  What are your thoughts?
  10. Do you think this book would have received so much attention had it not been an election year?  … had Trump not been a candidate?
  11. What does this book say about the American Dream?  Where and for whom is this dream alive?  Where has it died?
  12. Did you feel that that J.D. Vance was blaming the victim as many of his critics have complained?

 

 

Review by Jennifer Senior in the NY Times

Review by Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker

Discussion Questions by LitLovers

Ron Dreher’s interview with J.D. Vance in The American Conservative

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things that Will Make Me Not Want to Read a Book

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about book turn-offs.  Here is a list of 10 reasons I might choose not to read a book.  This meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  It is a weekly meme always centered around a top ten list.  Anyone can join in.  What do you agree or disagree with on my list?    What was or would be on your list?

  1. Zombies – Ok, I have to admit I was hooked on ‘The Walking Dead’ for a brief period, though I’m not sure why I got into it.  Somehow, I will watch things on television I wouldn’t dream of reading about.  I think I would have a hard time devoting reading time to zombies.
  2. Vampires – There have been so many books and book series based on vampires and yes, I know many love these books.  Again, I cannot go there.
  3. Erotica – I love a beautiful romance in an otherwise well written plot heavy book, but I’ve never gotten into reading erotica.
  4. Political Propaganda –  I don’t mind reading a book that involves politics or sheds light on political history or current events, however, there are many political books out there that seem to be propaganda.  They are trying to persuade others of their way of thinking and I prefer less bias.
  5. Werewolves – Ok, this is for the same reason I’m not going to read books about zombies or vampires.
  6. Cheesy romance – I see these romance books with a woman in long flowing dress and I am immediately not interested.
  7. Chick lit – The kind of book I know ahead of time I will not like, is the super fluffy, containing little of real substance book.  Unfortunately many of these book best fit into the genre “chick-lit” or “women’s literature.”
  8. Strongly religious – There are many amazing books that relate to religion.  However, I do not want to read a book solely about religion or a book that in any way wants to persuade me of a certain religion.
  9. Self-help – I avoid books that try to make me a better, happier, wealthier, smarter, more well liked person.  I do read books on parenting, gardening, cooking, etc – books in order to do something better, but not to inherently change myself.
  10. Bargain books – Amazon offers a free book every month for prime members.  I sometimes download these, yet never have read a single one.  I want to choose my own books out of many not just the 4 that amazon is pushing that month.  I do read netgalley’s ARCs, but there are so many to choose from.  I often actually hear of a book that I want to read and then go looking for it on netgalley.

“Maybe in Another Life” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pages:  342

Published:  July 7, 2015

Format:  Audible

 

 

 

 

Light, fluffy, easy to listen to audible book.  This is a story about a young woman at a critical transition point in her life and how a small decision can lead to two different outcomes in her life.  She is in her late twenties, has just ended a relationship with a married man, is pregnant unbeknownst to her, and has just moved back to Los Angeles from the east coast.  It is the ‘Sliding Doors’ concept of following the characters past this one decision through two alternate realities.  Comparing the two realities, some things turn out differently, others the same.  In fact there are some parts that are repeated verbatim from one chapter to the next adding an element of redundancy.

There are serious life events and crises that occur within this novel, however, I did not feel like I really got to know the characters well.   Hannah, the main character, wears a high bun and loves cinnamon rolls.  These two descriptors seem to be who and what Hannah is, as they are repeated so often.  Despite the potentiality of depth given the crises that occur, it remained superficial.  The characters were G rated, lacking edginess or darkness to round them out or create intrigue for me.  Even the cheaters who hurt the main characters seem to be easily forgiven and possibly even understood by Hannah and her best friend, Gabby.

Gabby is more to Hannah than even Hannah’s family is, as Hannah’s family ran off to London while Hannah was still in high school to support Hannah’s younger sister’s dancing career.  Hannah lived with Gabby and her parents for the rest of high school.  The friendship between Gabby and Hannah is great.  It is supportive and understanding, lacking drama (in a good way).  Gabby is very concerned with wording.  She wants those around her to be politically correct and not be image conscious, to understand what really matters.   This is the part of Gabby that is especially emphasized throughout the novel.  It also contrasted sharply with Hannah repeatedly referring to herself as fat when she was pregnant.  I have to say that drove me crazy.

In all, I think the concept was wonderful, however the execution was lacking.  If you feel like a super easy, no need to think much, beach read, then maybe pick this one up.  Otherwise, I’d recommend skipping it.  

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Do you think that there are decisions you make that affect the rest of your life?  How often are these decisions made?  How about other people’s decisions affecting your life?
  2. Was there a life path that you preferred for Hannah?  Did one of these resonate with you more than the other?
  3. Hannah says “Believing in fate is like believing in cruise control.”  What is the message within the book of fate versus free will?
  4. Why does Gabby feel the need to be so politically correct and make sure that those around her are as well?
  5. Hannah and Gabby have a conversation about soul mates.  Do you believe that there is one person everyone is destined to be with or are there multiple someones that would be good?  What do you think the author believes?
  6. Hannah feels estranged from her parents and sister as they moved to London while she was still in high school and she stayed behind to live with Gabby’s family.  How does her relationship with her family evolve in each of the realities?
  7. Discuss the role that cinnamon rolls play in this novel.

 

Review by Aestas Book Blog

Lit Lovers Discussion Questions

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Things That Will Make Me Want to Read a Book

Today’s topic is “things that will make me want to read a book.”  TopTen Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Anyone can join in and link up together.  Do any of these reasons resonate with you?  What drives you to pick up a new book?

  1.  An author I love has come out with a new book.  I love that goodreads sends me notifications of this.
  2. One of my good friends who I consider has similar taste in books has given it 5 stars.  We all have those few people whose taste in books is so close to ours that we cyber stalk what they are giving high marks.
  3. It has become controversial or polarizing.  I enjoy books that have affected people to extremes, both negative and positive.
  4. It seems unique.  There is something about it that sets it apart from other books I’ve read.
  5. It ‘s from a genre or relates to a time period I have not read about in quite a while.  Once I’ve read a particular kind of book, I need a break from that genre.  For instance, after reading a WW2 novel, I need to wait many months before I’m ready to sit down with another.   If I read a fluff book, I will need a break from fluff for a while as well.
  6. There is something historical or cultural that I am interested in learning more about within the novel.
  7. My book club is reading it.  Of course it’s more fun to read a book when you can enjoy a discussion afterwards with friends.
  8. It is a 2nd or 3rd book in a series I have started and loved.  Two examples of this are ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘The Hunger Games.’
  9. It is a companion novel to another novel I have read.  For example, I cannot wait to read Kate Atkinson’s ‘A God in Ruins’ having read ‘Life After Life.’  I also cannot wait to read ‘Anything is Possible’ having read ‘My Name is Lucy Barton.’
  10. The book is a gift from a friend.

“Owly Vol.1: The Way Home and The Bittersweet Summer” by Andy Runton

Pages:  160

Published: September 29, 2004

Format:  Softcover book

 

 

 

 

I chose to read this book because of it’s description as an “all ages comic book,” in order to help complete this year’s Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  I was surprised when it arrived to see exactly how few words this book contained.  The animals make noises and occasionally there are words shown from a book one of the animals is reading, but that’s about it.    Conversations are conveyed through bubbles containing pictures.  Emotions are expressed by way of pictures. I found it pretty incredible that so much could be conveyed without words and with some fairly simplistic depictions.

This book is composed of two novellas, each in comic book style.  In the first, Owly, the charming main character, is out to help others and make friends.  He puts birdseed out for the birds.  He frees captured fireflies.  He rescues Wormy from nearly drowning in a puddle during a rainstorm and stays up all night making sure he is ok.  The next day he helps Wormy find his parents.  In the second novella, Owly and Wormy go out of their way to research and find the right food for two hungry hummingbirds.  Owly also must learn to let go in this story, as the hummingbirds must migrate south for the summer.   Owly’s good deeds do not go unnoticed and those he has helped become his loyal friends, destined to return even if flying far away.

These are truly heartwarming, enchanting tales of friendship and kindness.  I read this with my 4 year old daughter who summed the book up in one word, “awesome.”  I look forward to reading more of Owly in the future. 

Andy Runton’s website – contains teaching tools, coloring sheets, animation shorts and much more!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Unique Books I’ve Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week has a different theme.. all based around a top 10 list.  This week’s topic is the top ten unique books I’ve read.  Each of these is unique for different reasons.  This is a somewhat ambiguous topic, so I chose books that I felt stood out to me as having elements I’ve not seen in other books.  Did any of these make your list?  What did or would make your list?

  1.  Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  3. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
  4. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
  5. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  8. Magic America by C.E. Medford
  9. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. Nicotine by Nell Zink

 

 

“A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway

Pages:  293

Published: 1929

 

 

 

 

 

This book is incredible. I completely understand why it is a classic.  Hemingway is a masterful writer. There is so much to absolutely love about this novel. Hemingway paints the landscape and setting like a painter. Each setting is so beautifully and carefully described, recalling such detail. The humor and wit involved had me laughing aloud. He so articulately characterizes and ascribes characteristics to those within his novel. You can feel the personalities and love them as he must have in creating them. They are so alive and vibrant! They have characteristics and personalities we would typically think of per their nationalities. The war is seen as an absolute absurdity from any way you look at it, but he does not go over the top in driving this point home.  There is so much else layered within this book.   Yes, war is ridiculous. The whole endeavor is ridiculous. Who will win? The country that figures this out last. And the love story.. is to die for!!! It is so crazy at the outset, so real, so tender… so tragic.  It has to be one of my favorite literary romances of all time.

This fictional novel is told in first person. Frederic Henry is an American studying architecture in Rome when World War I breaks out. He enlists in the Italian army as an ambulance driver, prior to America even entering the war. This mirrors Hemingway’s life in that he too volunteered to be an ambulance driver in the Italian army, years prior to America’s entrance into the war.  In the novel, Lieutenant Henry develops close friendships with Rinaldi, an Italian surgeon, and a nameless priest. It is through Rinaldi that Henry meets Catherine Barkley, with whom he falls in love.  The war is ensuing with Austria and Germany.  The officers of Italian army at the beginning of the novel seem to be enjoying drink and brothels.  Henry even develops jaundice during a prolonged hospitalized for a wound to his knee.  Alcoholic hepatitis?  Possibly.  However, as war progresses, the men become demoralized.  There is not enough food.  They cannot stay dry.  They might be shot at by their own army.  Lieutenant Henry must navigate his men away from harm during the German attack on Caporetto.  In case you have not read this novel and plan to, I will say no more.. as I do not want to ruin the novel for anyone.

I listened to the audible version read by John Slattery, which I highly recommend.  I know prior to this novel being originally published, the profanity was removed.  However, in this audio version it seemed like there were gaps where the profanity should have been.  I would have preferred to have listened to or read the unedited version.  This was a huge  read for me!  What an amazing book detailing a very important point in history, as well as an incredible love story.

This was read as part of Book Riot’s reading challenge as a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in the United States. It has been frequently challenged as a “sex novel” and due to “language and sexual references in the book.” This book was banned in Italy, in 1929 until 1948, by the fascist regime in part for its description of the retreat from Caporetto and in part for its anti-militarism. It was also banned in Boston at that time. It was burned in Germany in 1933 by the Nazis as it was felt to be anti-war at at time when they were trying to drum up support.  It was also banned in Ireland in 1939.

Spark Notes Discussion Questions

LitLovers Discussion Questions

Study Mode Discussion Questions

“Woman No. 17” by Edan Lepucki

Pages:  320

Expected Publication Date:  May 9, 2017

 

 

 

 

This book had me cringing, yet I was intrigued and felt compelled to read to the end. The setting is Los Angeles and a great many themes are explored throughout this novel. The two main characters, are at such transitional points in their life, making rash irresponsible decisions. These two women grew up with “bad mothers,” however end up becoming their mothers, either inadvertently or purposely in the pursuit of art. They are brought together in this novel as Lady has separated from her husband and is looking for a nanny. “S,” as Esther is calling herself in her play-act of being her mother, responds to nanny position and is hired on the spot, without even a reference check.

It is about mothering, the different ways a woman may parent different children.  It is about bonds between mother and child and boundaries.  It is about identity, as a mother, as a daughter, as an individual.

It is about relationships between women and how quickly they can change.  The characters in this novel and their relationships with each other are incredibly well developed.  The reader experiences the shifts in the relationship as life changes or new facts come to light.

It is about bad choices in relationships with men that seem exciting, yet leave the women with emptiness.  It is about the possibility of good relationships with good men, that seem boring and easy to throw away.  These women, Lady and Esther, through whose alternating voices the novel is rendered, seem destined to self-sabatoge.  Esther, in becoming her mother, takes the color out of her hair, dresses in frumpy clothing, drinks herself into oblivion, and makes poor rash choices on many fronts. Lady plays with fire on several fronts.  Most shockingly, she revisits the father of her oldest son (whose identity she is hiding from her son) not just once but repeatedly.

It is about art and the subtle shifts that can change the entire tone of the piece.  The title of the book refers to a photograph taken by Lady’s sister-in-law, Kit Daniels.  It was part of a series of photographs taken of ‘regular’ women caught off guard, with clutter in the backgrounds.  Lady’s original photo had been altered for the publication, and the slight alteration made a tremendous difference in the way she presented.  Certain other details were hidden as well.

In the end, this novel is about learning to accept yourself and the life given you, your strengths and weaknesses, not trying to copy or imitate others’, but to work with what life has handed to you.

Even though, I was annoyed with the characters and their alacrity for self-sabatoge, from which they all seemed saved at the end, I do think the novel was incredibly well executed.  It is not a feel good beach read.  It is much deeper and more complicated.   The writing is excellent.  The author develops many themes and there is significant complexity to the novel.  It is intriguing and unique.  It would make a great book club book!  

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Discuss the significance of the title.  Would you have given the novel a different title?
  2. What scene resonated with you most in a positive or negative way?
  3. How do the “roles” of the various characters influence their various interactions?
  4. Were there moments you disagreed with the choices of the characters?  What would you have done differently?
  5. What past influences are shaping the actions of the characters?
  6. Do you think the ending was appropriate?  How would you like to see the ending go?
  7. What is the importance of art and perception in the novel?
  8. Did you relate to either of the main characters?  If so, which one and why?
  9. Discuss the significance of Lady and S each going by alternative names.  What is the meaning of their given names and what are the meanings attached to the names they are going by in this novel?

Edan Lepucki’s website

Review by Kaleigh Maeby at Book Stalker Blog

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I’m Dying to meet

This weeks meme from the Broke and the Bookish is about authors you would like to meet.  To be more specific, these are 10 authors I would really enjoy getting to know a bit maybe over a meal.  Are any of these authors on your list?  Who is on your list and why?

  1. Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite  authors of all time.  I find her writing brilliant and her social commentary chilling yet spot on.  I felt like she was one of the first feminist writers whose writing I fell in love with.
  2. Elizabeth Strout is another favorite author of mine.  I love reading her novels and feeling like I have really gotten to know her characters well.  I find her writing brilliant and her character depiction one of the best out there.
  3. Kurt Vonnegut was a favorite of mine about 20 years ago and I devoured everything he wrote.  I would love to revisit his work with him.  This won’t be possible as he passed away in 2007 at the age of 84.
  4. Kate Atkinson is an author I fell in love with while reading ‘Life After Life.’  There was something so deeply affecting about this novel, how such small choices in life can have such large devastating consequences.  I listened to an interview with her, yet still have many questions of my own.
  5. Ernest Hemmingway is an author that sweeps me off my feet each time I pick up one of his novels.  His writing is beautiful and timeless.  I would love to meet this extremely charismatic man and get to know him more.  As he passed away in 1961 this won’t be possible, but I did have the opportunity to explore his home in Key West.
  6. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie blew me away with her novel ‘Americanah.’  She is a brilliant forward thinker who is doing tremendous good with her writing, bringing more thought and insight to not only race discussions, but also gender.  I hold her in the utmost esteem.
  7. Neil Gaiman is amazing.  I love everything I’ve read by him.  I would love to meet him, just to hear him tell me stories.. I have no idea how he is able to think up all of these incredibly fabulous fantastical tales.
  8. Mariana Enriquez is a young Argentinean author who recently published a collection of short stories, ‘Things We Lost in the Fire.’  These were horror stories that spoke to a horrific Argentinean recent past and to horrors in current society.  These stories have stuck with me and I would love to speak with her more about them and what her drive was in writing them.
  9. Trevor Noah, current host of the Daily Show, and author of ‘Born a Lie’ is hilarious!  His humor and social commentary is spot on.  I would love to sit down and share some laughs with this man.
  10. Malala Yousafzai is an amazing young woman who inspires women and girls everywhere.  Her struggle to fight for education in the face of the Taliban in Pakistan was incredibly brave and heroic.  Her memoir serves as a enormous reminder that women in many other parts of the world have a long way to go in their fight for access to education, let alone equality.

“The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley” by Hannah Tinti

Pages: 480

Expected Publication Date:  March 28, 2017

 

 

 

 

This was a beautiful story of a father – daughter relationship.  It tells of a past pertaining to the father, Samuel Hawley, from which he is trying to protect his daughter at all costs.  His past is Herculean, it is a time of it’s own, yet it cannot be separated from the present.  He has scars from  twelve bullets.  Twelve bullets are the equivalent of the twelve tasks of Hercules, the twelve hours on a clock.  Hawley’s past is shady, but he is a good man and wants the best for his daughter.  His job now is taking care of his daughter.  The chapters describing the circumstances leading up to each bullet striking him alternate with chapters about his daughter coming of age.  It is a unique intersecting of two lives, one in the past and one in the present.

The setting is Gloucester, Massachusetts, a fishing town that has a renowned greasy pole competition in the summer.  However, the author has renamed Gloucester, Olympus, giving it heroic proportions, suitable for the Hercules of this novel to tackle.  He tackles it with humility and for his daughter.  He does not enter the competition to win glory for himself.  The town is well developed in the novel.  The reader gets a sense of the determination and culture of the fishermen.  This is set against the environmentalists, embodied by Mary Titus and her ex-husband, who are fighting to protect against overfishing.

Hawley’s past is tainted.  It is rough and difficult, full of narrow escapes.  The daughter, Loo, is youthful, more innocent.  Their relationship is full of respect and love.  She doesn’t fully understand who he is and what his past is made of, but she is starting too.  She may be innocent, but even she carries pieces of his past within her without even knowing it.  She often feels that sour taste rising in the back of her throat driving her to violence.  In returning to her mother’s hometown, she is subject to bullying, but learns to fight for herself.  She falls for a boy.  She starts a waitressing job.  She is coming of age, understanding her father better and the world at large.

This is a beautiful book which I highly recommend!  I loved the intersection of an exciting shoot ’em up novel combined with a  coming-of-age story and the subtle shift in the relationship between father and daughter.  It was beautifully executed and seemingly timeless.  It was  tender and sweet plus keep-you-on-your-toes, exciting.   

 

Photo from obs-us.com

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from Boston.com

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  The author states in the afterward that the 3 themes she is trying to develop are time, death and love.  How are these developed throughout the novel?  Which theme do you think is most important?
  2. In exploring the theme of time, how does the past influence the present and the future in this novel?
  3. Discuss the comparison between Samuel Hawley and Hercules.  How are they similar?  How are they different?
  4. Who are the heroes in this novel?
  5. What were your feelings toward Samuel Hawley?
  6. How does the grandmother feel about Samuel?  Why do you think she does not confront him with her suspicions?
  7. Why does Principal Gunderson become Loo’s ally?
  8. How is the backdrop of the fishing town important to the story?
  9. What elements do each bullet story all have in common?

Interview with Hannah Tinti conducted by NPR

Review by Ron Charles in the Washington Post

Review by Jo’s Book Blog

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