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Abide with Me Reader’s Guide

By Elizabeth Strout

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Do you think small-town life is that different from city life?

2. What do you think the “voice” of this novel is telling you, besides what it says? That is, what kind of tone does it set–what kind of character (not the author) might be telling you this story?

3. Pick out some of the passages about nature in the first part of the book and see if you can discern the author’s implicit attitude toward the New England landscape and toward nature in general.

4. What does the state of Tyler’s house at the beginning of the book say about him and his family? Are they different by the end?

5. This book raises the question of whether a father’s parenthood is necessarily different from a mother’s–a question that concerns us to this day. What do you think about this controversial topic?

6. Why do you think Tyler’s daughter, Katherine, stops speaking after her mother’s death? When and why does she find her voice again?

7. This book is set during the height of the Cold War. Do you think the era plays an important role in the story, or is it just a backdrop?

8. What are Tyler’s strengths and what are his weaknesses? How do they affect his ability to perform his role in the community?

9. The role of the clergy in small communities during the fifties is presented vividly through the story of Tyler Caskey. Do you think the clergy’s role has changed over time in these places and in general?

10. Whether you are religious or not, how did you respond to Tyler Caskey’s intense involvement with matters of faith and belief?

11. In some ways, Abide with Me is about class distinctions, even in this egalitarian community. How conscious were you of this aspect of the book as you read it?

12. Find examples where the weather serves as a metaphorical backdrop for Tyler’s story, and explain.

13. The novel uses domestic interiors, architecture, and lighting to complement its scenes and themes. Can you give some examples of this?

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