Reading guide for Vandal Love by Deni Y. Béchard

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Vandal Love

A Novel

By Deni Y. Béchard

Vandal Love
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  • Paperback: May 2012,
    352 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How does Vandal Love explore movement and what it does to people? What values are lost - or cemented - in migration? How do the novel's characters variously distance themselves from the past or try to recreate it?

  2. Why does Isa-Marie take to her bed after Jude attacks her young friend? Do you think Jude felt guilt over her death? In what ways do love and destruction co-exist in this section? What other patterns of love twinned with destruction can you trace within the novel?

  3. Characters within Vandal Love are frequently renamed or rename themselves. How important is reinvention and renaming in Vandal Love? What is involved in an act of naming? What historical, cultural, racial, and ethnic baggage is being abandoned, hidden, borrowed, invented, or hoped for when choosing a name? When various characters within Vandal Love change their name, how does their choice reflect or interact with the historical and cultural moment in which they find themselves - or wish to lose themselves?

  4. Why do you think Bart leaves Louise? And, what is the significance of Bart crushing the owlets before leaving Louise and taking their baby? Later, why does he refuse to tell Isa anything about her mother, save that she was autre chose - "something else"?

  5. Many characters in Vandal Love seem to be chasing a mythical American Dream: a prosperous, yet easy America that always seems to exist elsewhere, for someone else. How do various characters' class, ethnicity, race, language, and size keep them as outsiders? How do some characters resist this mythical America?

  6. Who do you think achieves the most success in the story and why? What constitutes success for this character?

  7. Various characters within Vandal Love drink heavily. How does alcoholism figure in Vandal Love, a novel so focused upon memory, pain, loss, and forced forgetting?

  8. Why do you think the novel closes with Harvey, now calling himself Juan Elhuésped, living within the underground Mexican community in the US? Are there parallels between the struggles the Hervé family - and the French-Canadian diaspora generally - faced as they immigrated to the US during the French-Canadian exodus, and the struggles Mexican immigrants face in the contemporary United States?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Milkweed Editions. 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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