Not Logged in.
Book Jacket

The Guest Book


"An American epic in the truest sense…"
Entertainment Weekly
Summary and Reviews
Excerpt
Reading Guide
Author Biography

Discuss The Guest Book by Sarah Blake:
Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

Created: 07/02/19

Replies: 14

Posted Jul. 02, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1830

Expert

Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

After Kitty says no to Elsa, Kitty is maddened by Elsa's reading of her refusal. "For god's sake," she says, "it's not so simple." And Elsa replies, "But it is. It's very simple. It always is." Is Kitty's refusal simple? How might Neddy's death have shaped her thoughts? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request?

What would you have done?


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ruthiea

Join Date: 02/03/14

Posts: 153

Expert

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

I still wonder why Elsa approached Kitty rather than asking the couple together - she had just met Kitty - she wasn't even sure if Kitty knew what was really happening in Germany. I think Kitty was very good at believing she could read people, but she saw what she wanted to see through a very specific lens. Asking someone to take in your child is a huge ask - to ask a stranger even more so, but it was Ogden who had been there to see what was going on under the Nazi regime, she should have asked him. I don't let Kitty off the hook, however she had interpreted the situation to her favor and did not ask for details, did not ask anything, just said NO. if she felt guilty later on, good.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marie De

Join Date: 03/14/17

Posts: 14

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

It was not simple. Kitty had no knowledge of the situation in Germany, she was still grieving Neddy, and was ambivalent about Elsa. At first she thought there was something between Elsa and Ogden and then sensed that he did not like her. She did not have full knowledge of the situation and was emotionally vulnerable. I don’t really blame her, but as a reader with more awareness than she had at the time, I was disappointed in her.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianac

Join Date: 04/02/13

Posts: 49

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

We all like to think we would do the heroic thing if presented with a situation, but that is not true. Hindsight is always 20/20. Every action and inaction has a consequence, and Kitty's refusal in my opinion stemmed from fear, pure and simple.


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
katherinep

Join Date: 07/16/14

Posts: 174

Expert

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

Let her off the hook? What? She just lost her son ( sort of like Gloria Vanderbilt, I might add) and was reeling from her own personal tragedy. I doubt that she was paying attention to any world news and besides, how well known was the situation in Germany, as it was happening, here in America?

Further, this woman was a total stranger--Kitty wasn't even sure of her place in Ogden's life. And, almost as she is leaving the Island she asks that her child be left behind. Kitty must have wondered what she could possibly be thinking leaving her child with strangers.

I would have had a lot of questions--no way I would have said yes without knowing the why? the how long? the what are we expected to do with him? The whole set up was strange,

Once things became clear and it was beyond Kitty's ability to help, she felt remorse. She should not have felt guilt


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyl

Join Date: 04/15/12

Posts: 101

Expert

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

Her refusal is not simple. There were issues that she was dealing with--Neddy's death primarily. It was a desperate emotional appeal on Elsa's part--one that many mothers might have made in her situation. It really was mother to mother. Kitty was appealed to I think because of this. Elsa might have been better off with an appeal to Ogden. Kitty was not a woman who was warm and emotional and she did not have knowledge as others have said about what was going on in Nazi Germany at the time. Later there was the Kindertransport and strangers took in children, especially in England. I couldn't help feeling disappointed in her for her lack of empathy and kindness.

I also have to say that my grandparents took in strangers from Nazi Germany and sponsored them, and they did not have this family's finances. So this part of the story really hit home for me!


Posted Jul. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elizabethk

Join Date: 06/11/11

Posts: 17

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

It was a complete surprise..they barely knew one another. Kitty was not totally aware of what was going on in Germany. Although she said no, it haunted her years later when she realized what had actually happened in Germany


Posted Jul. 09, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
victoriac

Join Date: 05/31/19

Posts: 4

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

I don’t think it was simple given the loss of her own child and a general naïveté about the world beyond her own circumscribed life. And I’m also not sure if she needs to be let off the hook for the decision to say no, but I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t get Ogden involved somehow. After all, Elsa was his friend, not hers. And I was mostly disappointed that she never told him.


Posted Jul. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 246

Expert

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

Not simple, but based on a set of unverified assumptions, combined with her grief over the death of her son. She needed to discuss the situation with both Elsa and her husband, and did neither. Her later realization that she had made her response in haste caused her immeasurable guilt and grief.


Posted Jul. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
patty claire

Join Date: 04/05/19

Posts: 15

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

Kitty's refusal seemed heartless to me. I know she had just lost her own son but to refuse to save a child just seemed awful. What could be more difficult for a mother than to turn her child over to another? She should have realized how desperate Elsa must be to give up her child in order to save him. I do not excuse her actions and she comes to regret this decision.


Posted Jul. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
PiperUp

Join Date: 10/27/15

Posts: 123

Expert

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

Kitty's refusal to help isn't simple. It may have been uninformed but it wasn't simple. I don't think she truly understood what was happening in Germany or the friendship between her husband and Elsa. I understand her feeling guilty later once she learned of what was being done to Jewish people because she felt like she should've or could've helped. I think had she fully understood the situation or known sooner than she would've tried to help. I don't think we can accurately say what we would've done if we were in the same position because we have the knowledge of what happened during WWII. Of course, we'd like to think that we would've helped but we can't say that for sure since we aren't in the position of not knowing what was happening. I think most people would say "no" to raising a stranger's child if they didn't think or understand that the child was in danger. Also, I think it would be incredibly difficult to accept the responsibility of raising someone else's child while grieving the loss of your own.


Posted Jul. 13, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Harley's Mom

Join Date: 02/21/19

Posts: 12

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

I don't think Kitty's refusal to help was simple. While I understand she was grieving the loss of her son, she was being given an opportunity to save another woman's child. She may not have been well informed about the atrocities in Germany, but I couldn't understand why she didn't take Elsa aside for a more private conversation where she could have asked her why her child was in danger. Instead, she summarily rejected Elsa's request. I think she was so quick to decline because of her ingrained anti-Semitic bias. While Kitty was quick to refuse Elsa, I think that snap decision haunted her for many years as evidenced by the letters she wrote to refugee organizations trying to find Elsa's son.
I believe that most people would like to think they would help a child in this situation but we would never know for sure until we were faced with that decision.


Posted Jul. 17, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

Posts: 336

Expert

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

I was shocked by Kitty's refusal but should not have been. Yes, she lost a son. She could have opened her heart and said yes. She had been watching him so closely that I had hoped that she would have taken him. Yes, I absolutely would have said yes without a doubt.


Posted Jul. 18, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marthas

Join Date: 03/02/17

Posts: 17

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

What would I have done? I can't even think of this. Kitty did not know this woman and the request surely came as a great shock. I understand her saying "no". I also understand her horror and sympathy in later years when she realized the result of her action.


Posted Jul. 18, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyk

Join Date: 02/13/19

Posts: 5

RE: Is Kitty's refusal to help Elsa simple? Does it let her off the hook in terms of Elsa's request? What would you have done?

I don't believe her refusal was simple, but it was tragically uninformed. Her complete lack of awareness about the horrifying situation in Germany seems hard to believe now, but was probably not that uncommon at the time. I feel Kitty's refusal to help Elsa was a gut reaction to a request that must have seemed to come totally out of the blue. Still mourning Neddy, she was depressed and emotionally fragile. The very thought of having to be responsible for a stranger's child would have terrified her. While I agree with poster dorothyl that Elsa's request was purposely and emotionally made mother to mother, Elsa's failure to bring Ogden into the discussion is inexplicable. Did she not trust Ogden to do the right thing? There is no doubt that Kitty was haunted by the tragedy that resulted from her refusal.


Reply

Please login to post a response.