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READERS GUIDE

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. The novel has two narratives, that of Cherry and Blackwood and the larger story of Linda and Bruder. What effect does this have on how the story is told? How does the author use this narrative strategy to reveal information about his characters and their fates?

2. Many critics have suggested that place–California–is as much a character in Pasadena as the people in the story. Do you agree with this? In one interview David Ebershoff commented, “I wanted my characters’ internal landscapes to echo or contradict the external landscapes of California.” How does the changing landscape of Southern California reflect the characters and their lives?

3. Linda is a character in perpetual transformation: she is born Sieglinde, has her name changed to Linda, and takes on the name Lindy after she marries. Why is she always seeking change? How does this affect her ability to know herself? Who else in the novel reinvents himself or herself? Why do you think so many characters in Pasadena have abandoned their pasts? Is this common to the American experience? To that of California?

4. Why do you think Linda and Bruder have difficulty loving each other? What is it about their characters and the circumstances of their relationship that thwarts their affection? Bruder is described as resigned to fate, Linda as convinced of her own free will. How does this affect the outcome of their romance, and their lives?

5. Consider the relationship between Linda and Valencia. How are they different, how similar? Do you think that Linda’s relationship with her mother is more important to her than her relationshipe with her father? Why (or why not)? What do you think in Valencia’s childhood in Mexico impresses Linda the most? What about in Dieter’s experience in Germany and as an immigrant?

6. Linda and Charlotte Moss begin life in similar circumstances. Why do you think their lives diverge so drastically? Who do you think compromises the most? Why?

7. What do you make of the world of Pasadena and the Poores? Are you surprised that it attracts Linda? What do you think spellbinds her the most? Why do you think she makes the choices she does?

8. In his World War I adventures in France, Bruder spares a man’s life. Are his actions heroic or selfish? Why do you think he insists on keeping his secrets? Whom do you think he is keeping them from?

9. Throughout the novel the author uses epigraphs from the poetry of Emily Brontë. Why do you think the author quotes Brontë? The Wall Street Journal described the novel as “East of Eden meets Wuthering Heights.” What other novels do you find echoed in Pasadena?

10. By the end of the novel many characters are living with the choices they made long ago. What do you think the novel says about regret and redemption? About knowing and accepting the consequences of one’s life? How are the fates of Blackwood and Cherry different than those of Bruder and Linda? How are their fates knotted together? What does Pasadena say about fate?

 
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