Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
What one word would you use to describe the central theme of this novel? Is it a political novel?
In an interview, Grossman said about grief, The first feeling you have is one of exile. You are being exiled from everything you know. How do both grief and exile figure into this story?
Throughout the novel is the notion of tapestry, of threads being woven. What does that tapestry signify?
What do you think was Grossmans intent with the prologue? What did this opening lead you to expect from the rest of the novel? Was it significant to you as a reader, later in the story, to have known these characters as teenagers?
On page 21, Ora says, Im no good at saving people. Why does she say this? Is it true?
What function does Sami serve in the novel? What do we learn about Ora through her interactions with him?
Why does Ora consider Ofers reenlistment to be a betrayal? Why do his whispered, on-camera instructions affect her so strongly?
Discuss Adams assertion that Ora is an unnatural mother (page 98). What do you think he means by that? What does Ora take it to mean?
On page 134, Ora tells Sami to drive to where the country ends. His reply: For me it ended a long time ago. What does he mean by that? How does this change your interpretation of the novels title?
What is the significance of Ofers film, in which there are no physical beings, only their shadows?
In both Adam and Ofer, the influence of nature vs. nurture seems quite fluid. How is each like his biological father, and how does each resemble the man to whom he is not related by blood?
What role does food play in the novel? What does vegetarianism, especially, signify?
On pages 28485, Ora says to Avram, Just remember that sometimes bad news is actually good news that you didnt understand. Remember that what might have been bad news can turn into good news over time, perhaps the best news you need. What is she hoping for here? Does her advice turn out to be accurate?
Why does Ora refuse to go back for her notebook? As a reader, could you identify with Oras actions? What about elsewhere in the novel?
What do we learn about Ora, Ilan, and Ofer through the story of Adams compulsive behavior? What is the force of no (page 398)?
Discuss the significance of whose name Ora draws from the hat. Did she choose that person intentionally? How might the lives of Ora, Ilan, and Avram have been different if the other name were drawn?
Why does Ora react so strongly to what happened with Ofer in Hebron? How does it relate to what happened to Avram as a POW? Why does her reaction lead to the implosion of her family?
When Ora says to Avram, Maybe youll even have a girl (page 572), what is she really saying?
Discuss the final scene of the novel. What does Avrams vision signify? Was Oras motivation for the hike wrong, as she fears?
How did Grossmans personal note at the end change your experience of the novel? What seems possible for Ora and Avram, and the other characters in the book, at the end of the story?
SUGGESTED READING Midnight Convoy and Other Stories by S. Yizhar A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz Once Upon a Country by Sari Nusseibeh Friendly Fire by A. B. Yehoshua Wittgensteins Nephew by Thomas Bernhard Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Vintage.
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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