Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
A bestseller that captured the imaginations of readers coast-to-coast, Grayson
is the exhilarating account of an encounter between a baby whale and a teenage
swimmer in the busy ocean waters near Seal Beach, California. Lynne Cox would go
on to set world records for open-water swimming around the globe, becoming a
high-profile author and speaker. But the hours she spent on that special morning
helping a young gray whale search for its mother will forever rank as some of
the most incredible experiences of her life.
The story begins in the predawn hours, when Lynne was in the midst of her
rigorous daily swim. When she felt a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary energy in the
water, she eventually realized that a massive creature was following her. It was
an eighteen-foot-long whale calf that had become separated from his mother, and
he appeared to be looking to Lynne for assistance. Facing dehydration or even
starvation, he was caught in a treacherous predicamenthis life depended on his
finding his mother. Dubbing the baby whale Grayson, Lynne confronted a difficult
decision. She didn't have unlimited strength and would have to give up the
search eventually, but if she swam back to her pier, Grayson would trail
alongside her to the shore and succumb to collapsed lungs. What happened next
would startle, inspire, and transform heras it has now done for thousands of
This guide is designed to enhance your experience of Lynne Cox's Grayson. We
hope it will enrich your reading group's exploration of this captivating, true
Questions and Topics for Discussion
- Grayson opens with descriptions of the eerie yet magical
encounters Lynne had with grunion. What makes the oceanic world alluring for
her? How does it change us to be immersed in a realm where humans are in the
- What made this mission so important to Lynne? Would others have taken
such care to protect Grayson?
- Lynne was determined to believe that Grayson's mother was alive. Did you
share her optimism? How did you respond to her words about positive energy?
How would the world be different if everyone followed her philosophy?
- On the morning she met Grayson, Lynne was assisted by many people, from
Carl the fisherman to a platoon of seasoned lifeguards. Teamwork among
people who watched out for each other and shared wisdom was essential to a
successful outcome that day. Who plays a similar role in your life? Who
provides the best guidance?
- Lynne recalls that her friends in high school had been outsiders and
that she had enjoyed knowing a variety of people who did not focus on
superficial concerns. How did this perspective shape her outlook at the age
of seventeen, when she was confronted with the task of helping Grayson?
- Discuss Lynne's attempts to communicate with Grayson and vice versa. How
does sonar compare to human vocal chords and words in terms of its
limitations and its range of possibilities? How do animals (including
humans) "explain themselves" to one another?
- What were the implications of size and degrees of power as Lynne
searched for Grayson's mother? As she swam farther out, a tiny person in the
wake of ships and massive creatures, was she in fact so "small"? In
emotional terms, was Grayson so huge?
- Lynne describes the oil rig's hum as reminding her of Manhattan:
intriguing but mechanized, the opposite of the earth's natural energy. How
did you react to the types of dangers she encountered that day? Did you feel
differently about man-made dangers versus natural ones?
- What did you discover about the anatomy and physical needs of a baby
whale compared with those of a human infant? What is the mother's role in
her offspring's survival?
- How does Lynne cope with fear and anxiety when she first encounters
Grayson? How is she affected by his fearlessness around jellyfish and the
pier's fishing lures? What does he teach her about being agile and
- Whales appear frequently in storytelling, from the biblical narrative of
Jonah to Melville's classic Moby-Dick. How does Lynne's account of her
experience with whales, in which she was able to physically touch both
Grayson and his mother, compare with other accounts of whales that you may
- When Lynne returns home and is reunited with her own parents, she
downplays the events of that morning. Why do you suppose she does this? How
does anyone effectively tell such a story?
- The image of beautiful dolphins served as a good omen in Grayson. What
makes them special among sea creatures? What will you take with you from the
image of Lynne and Grayson interacting with them?
- Ultimately, what is the source of Lynne's endurance? What is your
equivalent to the moments when she tells herself, "Go, go!" despite
- What do you believe was being communicated when Grayson and his mother
were reunited? How did you interpret that scene? How might the book have
unfolded if it had been "written" by Grayson or his mother? How would they
have described Lynne?
- Lynne's previous book, Swimming to Antarctica, features many
missions that take her around the worldeven placing her in the midst of
geopolitical change. How does her goal to reunite a mother whale and her
baby compare with those future missions, or with her previous experience of
swimming the English Channel at the age of fifteen? What appears to drive
all of her endeavors?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Knopf.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.