The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman
Questions for Discussion
1.Maggie and Yuri’s teacher-student relationship is the heart of The Secret of Clouds. Do you have a teacher who left a lasting impression on you or made a permanent impact on your life?
2.How do music and dance serve as different forms of language for the characters in The Secret of Clouds? Think about how music is embraced in Maggie’s home and how it ultimately draws her to Daniel. How is it different from Katya’s family’s attitude toward her dancing? Does the fact that Katya is a ballet dancer influence her romance with Sasha?
3.How do the Topper and Krasny households communicate through food? What are the cultural differences? What are the similarities? Does food play a role in your family’s traditions and holidays?
4.Maggie’s mother tells her, “We can’t be so afraid of experiencing pain that it interferes with the things we love.” What are the different painful obstacles that the characters face, and how do they overcome them?
5.There are several references to butterflies in the novel. Why do certain characters identify with butterflies? Sasha also describes the butterfly effect to Katya early on in their relationship. Can you think of an example in your life where one individual meeting changed your destiny?
6.Do you believe Yuri’s heart defect was caused by the Chernobyl accident or was just a random case of bad luck? Does the author imply there were certain things that increased Katya’s risk of having a child with a birth defect?
7.How do Katya and Sasha approach Yuri’s diagnosis differently? How do their experiences as parents differ? How does each of them deal with the strain and fear of having a sick child?
8.How does Sasha’s faith transform over time? How is the conflict between science and faith explored in the novel? How do Sasha and Katya’s beliefs differ on this issue?
9.What role do sports play in The Secret of Clouds, and how do they unite the various characters in the novel? What makes baseball such an attractive sport for Sasha and Yuri?
10.Both Florence and Katya have family stories that they don’t share readily with others, yet these histories impact how they are perceived by others. Did you have greater sympathy for these characters once you learned about their past experiences? Do you know people in your life whom you saw differently and more empathetically once you learned something they don’t often reveal to others?
11.Do you think there are individuals who are destined to become teachers because of certain qualities that they possess? What traits do you think contribute to making some people more suitable than others for the profession? Is teaching a calling? Have you been drawn to a certain profession? What made you a perfect fit for that job?