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 by Jean Harfenist X
A Brief History of The Flood by Jean Harfenist
  • 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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    by Walter Isaacson
    The name Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most recognized in all of Western history, and his ...
  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

A story that is at once quirky, charming, heartbreaking, suspenseful and poignant.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Days When Birds Come Back
    by Deborah Reed

    A graceful testament to endurance, rebuilding, and the possibilities of coming home.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Mothers of Sparta

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir

A dazzling literary memoir with shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott and Jenny Lawson.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A J O A Thousand M B W O S

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.