Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
On the verge of giving upanchored to dreams that never came true and to people who have long since disappeared from their livesVan Booy's characters walk the streets of these stark and beautiful stories until chance meetings with strangers force them to face responsibility for lives they thought had continued on without them.
Questions for Discussion
In the title short story, why do the two main characters hold on to physical thingsacorns, stones, mittens, the grandfather's broken chair? Do you see these objects as physical burdens or as lovingly preserved souvenirs? What is your most precious possession and why?
In Love Begins in Winter, the narrator muses that, "The most significant conversations of our lives occur in silence" (42). Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
When Bruno and Hannah release their kites into the air in Love Begins in Winter, how does this simple action reflect how they have lived for the past 20 years?
Do you think that the act of the narrator in "Tiger, Tiger" biting her boyfriend at the end of the story is an acceptable regression to her child-like statea playful reinvention and display of her love? Or do you think she has just gone crazy? Do you think they stay together in the end? Why or why not?
In "The Missing Statues," discuss the relationship between the two cities of Las Vegas and Rome. Do you think it's strange that anyone would find beauty in a city like Las Vegas?
In "The Coming and Going of Strangers," do you agree with Walter's understanding of only experiencing one pure first love? What does this contribute to your discovery that Walter ends up marrying Jane?
Also in "The Coming and Going of Strangers," why do you think the farmer stopped to pick up Walter's father and the child? Was it because he was in World War II?
Why does George in "The City of Windy Trees" live such an isolated life? Do you think George did the right thing by going to see his unknown daughter Lotta, in Sweden? What would you have done?
In George's letter to his sister Helen, he writes "I regret things I haven't donerather than things I havestrange eh?" What sorts of things do you think George wishes he'd done? Do you feel the same about your life?
In "The City of Windy Trees," all the adults work together to make a child's life happy. Is this true for other children in the book? Would you agree with the idea that children are the most important characters in Van Booy's fiction?
When Lotta and George are ice skating in "The City of Windy Tress", George breaks away "to skate clumsily but without falling over" (224). What type of metaphor for parenting is this? Do you find this to be true in your own life if you're a parent, or in the lives of other parents you know?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial.
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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