Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. How does the author’s rendering of the quotidian details of everyday life relate to some of the overall themes in the first story, “Shiloh?” Consider the last sentence in particular.
2. Discuss the relationships presented in “Shiloh.” What purpose does Mabel serve within the context of Norma Jean and Leroy? How does she relate to each of them separately? How do these associations compare to those in the rest of the stories?
3. How do Mack’s actions reflect his state of mind in the second story, “The Rookers?” What does his dialogue with the rest of the family say about him?
4. Bobbie Ann Mason chooses to tell the third story, “Detroit Skyline, 1949” from a child’s point of view. Does this make the narrator unreliable, in any sense? What sort of angle does it lend to the seriousness of the topics-at-hand?
5. What sorts of different meanings can the title of the fourth story, “Offerings,” assume?
6. How does Louise’s struggle with her watermelon still life symbolize the other struggles occurring in the fifth story?
7. Why do you think Bobbie Ann Mason stresses brand names and pop culture references, like TV shows and personalities, in the sixth story, “Old Things?”
8. Analyze the following passage from the eighth story, “The Climber”: “As she drives home, Dolores feels confused, surprised that her sense of relief feels so peculiar. There is nothing momentous in what she has been through.”
9. What do animals represent in the ninth story?
10. How does religion play in to the tenth story, “The Retreat?” What do you think Georgeann means when she says, “I was happy when I was playing that game.”?
11. Why do you thing the author chose to relate the two stories, “Nancy Culpepper” and “Lying Doggo?” How does the perspective change from one story to the next?
12. What role do animals play in each of the stories? What role does childhood play?
13. Discuss the author’s choice of tense in the stories, and how they relate to an intrinsic chronology.
14. How does Bobbie Ann Mason compare to other short-story writers? Lorrie Moore? Flannery O’Connor? Raymond Carver?