• The book is a memoir based on two very different family stories – the one told by the family newsletters, the other told by the author, the family’s mother.  How did you feel about the contrast between the letters and the narrative that followed each letter? Why do you think Silva chose that format?

  • The story is written in first person.  Silva says if her daughter wrote the story, it would have been entirely different.  (p 6) How do you think it would differ?

  • What do you think was Silva’s purpose? Some may  wonder why she exposes so many aspects of herself and her family that others would keep secret.  Why do you think she does so?

  • Does the book have a central theme? If so what? Does it have many themes?

  • What is the role of enabling in the book?  What is the difference in enabling and supporting?

  • What part do the diversions in the book, such as the water garden and the house, play in the story?  Do you think they detract from the story or add depth?

  • Occasionally, Silva departs from the narrative to give background information on such people as her mother and father.  Why do you think she does this?

  • Silva basically focuses on one aspect of her life  - her relationship with her oldest daughter.  Yet, obviously, there were other important aspects to her life– her marriage, her career, her relationship with her other children, her relationships with her friends, that are left out.  Does this approach enhance the story line or detract from it?

  • What did you like or dislike?

  • How did the book affect you?
    Do you feel 'changed' in anyway? Did it expand your range of experience or challenge your assumptions (for example did it take you to a place you haven't been before or help you see a place you know in a different light?) Did reading it help you to understand a person better, or even yourself?

  • Project into the future. What will happen to this family?

  • Compare and Contrast
    Have you read similar books? How are they alike or different?

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