Reading guide for A Brief History of The Flood by Jean Harfenist

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Brief History of The Flood

by Jean Harfenist

A Brief History of The Flood
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2002, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2003, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. As the book opens, Lillian's mother, Marion, looks around the breakfast table at her husband and children and says, "Now this is how it's supposed to be." What does she mean? What does the author wants the reader to understand from this comment?

  2. Marion creates a surprising pontoon-boat float for her family to ride on in the Acorn Lake Fourth of July boat parade. Its theme might be viewed as a baseline for eight-year-old Lillian's ideas about what life is supposed to be like. What events force her to reconsider? If Lillian, as an adult, were to construct a pontoon-boat float symbolizing her own idea of happiness, what theme might she choose?

  3. Some families seem to be held together by the glue of secrets. What secrets are kept by the Andersons? Why? Would those same secrets be kept in a family today?

  4. What is the significance of the girls who work the nightshift making salads for airline flights? How do they add to our understanding of Lillian's life? Of Marion's? Are they merely relics of a time gone by, or are they still relevant today?

  5. Lillian says about her best friend, Irene, "Once you reach homecoming queen, there's no place else to go but bad." What does this statement say about small towns? About opportunities for girls?

  6. Little actual violence takes place in the Anderson household, yet Lillian says that living with her father, Jack, is "like living under a clenched fist." How is this tension created and maintained? What makes this tension tolerable to Lillian? To the reader?

  7. Is Lillian a reliable narrator? That is, in short, would she lie to you?

  8. The title, A Brief History of the Flood, comes from a letter Marion writes to the IRS. Why do you think the author chose this title? What might you have called it?

  9. Lillian says, "I don't want anybody ever looking at me like the girl who got her ducks shot." What does this statement reveal about her character? Is she different or like other family members in this characteristic?

  10. Lillian says of her best friend, Irene, "Nothing you can say will shock her... Usually that's what you want in a friend." In what other ways does Irene resemble Lillian's mother? How are they different? What does Irene offer Lillian that she can't get from other relationships?

  11. Why doesn't Marion seem to see Jack's failings as a husband and father?

  12. How are Lillian's actions in "Duck Season" a continuation of what took place in "Body Count?"

  13. What role does shame play in the Andersons' behavior? What are its sources? Which children are most affected by it? Why? How does it influence their choices?

  14. Men generally aren't portrayed here in a positive light. What type of men do you think Randy and Davey will become? Why?

  15. At the end of the book how does each member of the Anderson family think "it's supposed to be?"

Suggestions for further reading:

  • Mona Simpson, Anywhere but Here;
  • Mary Karr, The Liar's Club: A Memoir;
  • Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life;
  • Richard Russo, Empire Falls;
  • Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster;
  • Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine;
  • Annie Proulx, The Shipping News;
  • Ann Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant;
  • Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres;
  • Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina;
  • Susan Minot, Monkeys;
  • Alexandra Fuller, Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight;
  • Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping;
  • Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries;
  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird;
  • Mark Train, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Falling
    by Jane Green

    "Readers who enjoy a love story with heart will adore this tale of homecoming and transformation." - LJ

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

An enthralling novel based on the forgotten true adventures of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!