Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The Speed of Light features three very
distinctive characters and their struggles to overcome the difficulties of their
past. Which character did you relate to the most? And why?
The novel ends with each character on the brink of a new discovery.
What do you imagine happens after the end of the book? What do you think the
future holds for Sola, Julian and Paula?
Compare and contrast how the presence of color, scent and sound
informs the lives of Julian, Paula and Sola.
Certain metaphors recur throughout the novel and have thematic as well
as structural significance. For example, the metaphors of breaking into pieces
and unraveling appear for all three characters, and this imagery is also
reflected in the frequent alternation of point of view. The result is an
impression of fragmentation, which also sets the stage for the interweaving of
the characters' lives. Can you find other examples of repeating metaphors and
their effects in the novel?
The pivotal role of science and scientific language in The Speed of Light is not only apparent from the book's title, but also Julian's science
dictionary literally becomes the novel's fourth voice. What were your
impressions of the definitions? Did any of them strike you as particularly
resonant in your understanding of the characters and/or the book overall?
In the novel, bearing witness to tragedy implies a responsibility held
by both the person telling the story and the person listening. How do you think
these responsibilities differ? Do you agree with Sola that each role is
important in the healing process? Do you think this idea is applicable to the
Did any of the characters or scenes from The Speed of Light stay with
you after you finished reading the book? If so, which ones and why?
The bonds of family are a central theme in the novel - both the
secrets and silences that arise as well as the close relationships formed
between parent and child, brother and sister. Are there any feelings in the book
that resonate with your own family experiences? Do you think this kind of
complexity is common to the American family today?
During the course of the novel, each character experiences a
significant change and ends up in quite a different place than he or she
expected. Did you, as a reader, find the book altered any of your perceptions or
experiences in the world around you? If so, discuss these changes and the
feelings they inspired.
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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