Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Much of the action in Going to Bend happens over food
preparation. What does soup represent in the lives of Petie and Rose? How
is that different than its significance for Nadine and Gordon?
Kitchens are also centers for discussion, revelations, and turning
points. What key scenes take place in kitchens?
As a young man, Schiff meets a redheaded girl at a carnival and, early
in the book, vividly remembers the few hours they spent together. Later,
he will associate her with Petie. Why? What characteristics and quirks do
these characters hold in commonand why does Schiff find them appealing?
When Petie is young, she and Paula seek refuge in a gift shop from Old
Mans drinking. When a fragile teacup is broken, the shopkeeper gives it
and a matching saucer to Petie. What is the significance of these objects
Old Man Tyler and Petie live in a camp trailer in the woods behind
Hubbard. Later, Jim Christie discovers the trailer and uses it for his own
purposes. What role does the trailer play in Peties past and in later
causing a disastrous rift between her and Rose?
Going to Bend explores the different kinds of love that can exist
between husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and
friends. How did those different kinds of love manifest themselves between
the characters in Going to Bend?
Rose and Gordon become good friends. Whywhat do they have in common?
In some sense, Going to Bend is a story about the effects of
isolationgeographical isolation, psychic isolation, and isolation based
on shame and secrecy. What are some examples of isolation and its effect
on the characters and on their unfolding stories?
In the course of the book there is an unfolding tension between Jim
Christie and Carissa that will ultimately have tragic results. Whats
really going on between these two characters?
Eula Coolbaugh is one of the most important people in Peties life.
Does Eulas love for Petie differ from Paula Tylers? If so, how?
In a childhood visit to Camp Twelve, Petie is badly burned in a fire,
and Old Man applies a poultice of ashes. What do these ashes signify, both
then and at the books end? What role do they play in helping Petie to
Eula Coolbaugh may be Going to Bends only truly wise
character. What wisdom does she impart to Petie that has a lasting effect
on her life and decisions? Why?
The title Going to Bend has both a metaphorical and literal
meaning. What are they, and how do they relate to the books main
At several key moments in Peties life, she buries objects beneath a
tree. What are the objects, what do they represent, and why does she bury
Petie and Schiff, both of whom are married, carry on a clandestine
relationship through much of the book. Whats missing in their
respective marriages, and how does this play a role in their unfolding
Jim Christie is an inarticulate man with a severely limited ability to
communicate his feelings. How does Rose deal with this throughout the
book, and what role does it play in the books climactic outcome?
Work creates tensions throughout the book, and everyone except for Paula
Tyler and Eula Coolbaugh has a job. How do the characters regard their
respective jobs at the start of the book? At the end? How do they suit
Were any of the characters in Going to Bend reminiscent of people
youve known in your own lives? If so, what were the resemblances?
Were there universal truths about people and relationships that were
revealed in Going to Bend? If so, what were they, and how might
they relate to, say, white-collar people living and working in an urban
What do you think will happen to Petie and Rose after the books end?
What would you like to see happen?
Copyright Ballantine Books 2005
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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