Reading guide for The Cove by Ron Rash

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The Cove

A Novel

By Ron Rash

The Cove
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2012,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2012,
    272 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Guidarini

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the novel's prologue, an older local man calls the cove, "a place where only bad things happen." Is that true? How would you describe the cove? Would you say the cove is haunted or cursed? Do you find remote places like it off-putting or soothing in their distance from the rest of the world?
  2. In the prologue, the government surveyor discovers a skull at the bottom of a well. How does the prologue set the novel's mood and tone?
  3. Discuss the role of nature in the book. What is the significance of the Carolina Parakeets mentioned at the beginning of the story? How does the natural world influence the novel's character: Laurel, Walter, Chauncey, Slidell? Use examples from the story to illustrate your comments.
  4. Why was Walter in the woods? Why didn't he stay where he was? Describe Laurel and Walter. What draws them together? How does each change the other?
  5. Would Laurel be an outcast if she lived anywhere else besides the cove? What caused her neighbors to fear her? How does she fight back against their fear and hatred? How can one fight against irrational prejudice? Why do some people hold on to superstitions and false beliefs?
  6. Laurel tells Walter about the dreams she once had of leaving the cove. "It's like I've never had a single choice in my life. Most people get at least a few choices, don't they?" How would you answer her? Has the opportunity of choices and our ability to exercise them changed in the century since Laurel's time? How have these changes affected women?
  7. Think about Chauncey Feith. What kind of a man is he? Chauncey sees himself as a leader, a man of courage the equal of Laurel's brother Hank, who was wounded in the war. "What Chauncey did took courage too. It wasn't the kind where you had a scar or a ribbon you could show off, but instead a day- to-day courage as you stood up for what you believed no matter what." What do you think about his self-assessment? Why isn't Chauncey fighting overseas? Does adhering to blind faith take courage?
  8. What makes some people fearful of outsiders, or those who are different, whether it is Laurel, Walter, Laurel's teacher, or the German university professor? Is such fear ever justified?
  9. The war was nearly over when Chauncey formed a posse. What drove him to hunt Walter? How would Chauncey or the other locals describe a "Hun"? How did their ideas match up with the reality of Walter? Are the events that unfold Chauncey's fault or did the blame lie in others?
  10. Why did Chauncey choose to act as he did towards Hank? Would you call what happens to Chauncey justice?
  11. The Cove is set in the final moments of World War I. What lessons does it offer us today?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ecco. 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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Beyond the Book:
  Ron Rash - Poet and Novelist

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