Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- When the novel opens, Cyndi Rae and Didi are described as polar
opposites who bond over the loss of their fathers. What else draws them
together and drives their intense, longtime friendship? What do they get
from each other?
- The two young women in the novel end up changing their names. What is
signiﬁcant about the names that they abandon, and the ones that they choose?
How is Rae different from Cyndi Rae? How is Ofelia different from Didi?
- When Rae ﬁrst meets Tomas she says: He was brown and fully formed. His
black hair, brows, the black lashes shadowing his cheeks had an etched
certainty missing in the tentative pastel fuzziness of the boys I knew
(73). Why do you think she is so taken by his coloring?
- Tomas has clearly had his share of romantic encounters. Why does the
fact that Rae is a virgin feel so important to him?
- Rae learns that ﬂamenco dancing is a series of contradictions.
Technically, the rhythm of ﬂamenco is highly structured, and adherence to
that rhythm is of utmost importance. But the heart and soul of ﬂamenco is
spontaneous and wild. How do Rae and Didi ﬁt into this dichotomy? Do their
roles change at all over the course of the novel?
- When Didi and Rae enroll at the Flamenco Academy, Doa Carlota becomes
an inspiring ﬁgure in each of their lives. How would you describe each of
their relationships with this legendary dance instructor?
- In the novel, Sarah Bird alternates between two completely different
worlds: a college campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a Gypsy community
in Andalusia, many years ago. What makes each of these settings so vivid?
- Doa Carlota says that a true Gypsy singers voice is the sound a man
makes when the world tries to choke him to death at birth and he sings
anyway. When Rae auditions for Toms, she says something similar: This is
what ﬂamenco is, knowing youre alone, youre going to die, and dancing
anyway (267). Do you think Rae, with no Gypsy blood at all, becomes a true
- Why does Doa Carlota feel compelled to tell the story of Rosa and
Clementina to Rae? How is this story from long ago important to the novel?
- Tomas says: I grew up like one of the Romanovs. Like I had hemophilia,
something in my blood that made me special but was a curse (367). In what
ways does ﬂamenco continue to be both a blessing and a curse to him?
- Tomas, Didi, and Rae are driven throughout the novel by intense
obsessions, but Rae is the only one who really becomes freed from hers. What
do you think gives her the power to overcome her obsession? Do Toms and
Didi have more in common with each other than either had with Rae?
- Do you think, in the end, that Rae regrets her friendship with Didi?
Have you ever had an intense friendship like the one shared by Didi and Rae?
If so, is it still working, or did it fade or burn out over time?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.