Reading guide for What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

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What Was Lost

A Novel

by Catherine O'Flynn

What Was Lost
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  • Paperback:
    Jun 2008, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. What drove Kate into an imaginary detective world? What sort of heroism does she fantasize about?

  2. How was Kate influenced by her father, both before and after his death? How did his approach to parenting compare to her grandmother’s?

  3. What makes Green Oaks so appealing to Kate? Why is it important for her to go where no one knows her?

  4. How did you react to the shift in point of view after Kate disappeared? How did the adults’ perceptions compare to hers?

  5. How does Lisa cope with the aftermath Kate’s disappearance has on her brother and her parents?

  6. How would you characterize Kurt and Kurt Sr.? How do the differences between Kurt and his sister, Loretta, affect their roles in the family?

  7. Discuss Green Oaks itself and the closed factory that looms in its history. What do shopping and stores such as Your Music bring to the community? How pervasive is mall culture in our society?

  8. How did your understanding of Teresa unfold? What had the dynamics between Kate and Teresa been like when they first met? How was Teresa affected by abuse once she reached adulthood?

  9. Ultimately, who was responsible for Kate’s death? Could it have been prevented?

  10. What is evoked by the top-secret detective notebook entry that forms chapter 41 in the novel? In what way do Kate’s observations in those last scenes bring her story full circle?

  11. How would you describe the relationship between Lisa’s co-workers? What do their interactions with each other and with the customers say about their personalities? Why do they stay in their jobs? How does Lisa handle the task of disciplining the volatile Steve in chapter 25? Why did Ian string Mr. Wake along for nearly two years regarding the classical-music cassette (chapter 31)?

  12. Discuss the novel’s title and its double meanings. In what way does Kate’s disappearance serve as a metaphor for the other lost souls depicted by Catherine O’Flynn (including the mall generation itself)? How did Lisa and Kurt become lost? Is their apathy indicative of their generation as a whole?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company. 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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