Questions and Topics for Discussion
I. That of Which We Cannot Speak
1) “You may never be 100% understood,” Samantha says. “I’d settle for 55%.” To what degree do you feel understood by the people in your life? To what extent do you think it’s possible for us to truly understand one another?
2) How different do you think this relationship would have been had Samantha had her voice when they met?
II. The Only Way Out Is Through
3) Fetterman appears to try earnestly and often to bond with his son. What do you think is the reason for their lack of connection?
4) At the end of this story, we are given a glimpse into the future. Do you like knowing what will happen to Derek? Would you rather it remained a mystery?
III. Good in a Crisis
5) Ginny claims to not want intimacy. “Why label as fear what is simply a choice?” she asks. Do you believe her, or do you think she is commitment-phobic? Are there clues in the story that point to why she might be afraid of relationships?
6) Why did she become a teacher? Do you think she has changed her views about herself by the story’s end?
IV. The Thing Itself
7) What is happening with Janet at the end (did you know without reading the Author’s Notes)? Would you have interpreted it differently without knowing the author’s intent?
8) Is this a happy ending? Why or why not?
V. The Laziest Form of Revelation
9) The narrator’s friend asks: “[W]hy do you surround yourself with people who can only give you carrots?” Do you think that Ruby is intentionally choosing people who are unavailable? Based on your own experiences, are artists and other creative people more likely to be emotionally unavailable than others?
VI. The Summer Before
10) How significant is the parents’ divorce to the events of this story?
11) James believes everything happens for a reason. Do you agree? How is that idea reflected in his actions?
12) How bridgeable is the distance between the two sisters at the end? What do you think their relationship will be like in the future?
VII. Mollusk Makes a Comeback
13) What do you think Katie’s struggle is really about?
14) If people are in a downward spiral, as she seems to be, should we let them continue to fall and “hit bottom”? Do you think it’s possible to influence another person’s self-love or self-worth?
VIII. I Knew You’d Be Lovely
15) Imagine what would happen in a sequel to this story. Would Hannah’s well-intentioned gift backfire?
16) Sydney does not approve of the “possessive” aspect of love. But what would a world characterized by her ideals look like? Do you think monogamy is necessary for a society to run smoothly?
IX. Proof of Love
17) Why does Kelly feel so compelled to share her faith?
18) Is proselytization inherently insulting to the person on the receiving end? How appropriate do you think it is in this context, and in other situations you may have experienced?
20) How much do math and magic have to do with this story?
21) What is the role of the absent sister?
XI. The Far Side of the Moon
22) What is it about Mandy that makes the narrator still miss her after all these years? Is it simply because she was the one that got away?
23) Could there have been something in the box?
XII. Someday Is Today
14) What is the relationship in this story between faith and family? How does it compare to your sense of family, and your experiences of faith?
25) Do you think what the narrator does in the hospital is wrong? How would you have reacted if a similar incident happened to you and your loved ones?