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Kyra Reader’s Guide

By Carol Gilligan

Kyra by Carol Gilligan


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Kyra says, “I don’t think you can fall in love with a man unless you fall in love with his work.” Does Andreas have to fall in love with Kyra’s work?

2. Kyra tells Anna that with Andreas she feels a freedom she has never felt with a man before. Andreas’s feelings for Kyra are also new (“I love you in a way I have never loved anyone before”). Does the strength of their feelings also, paradoxically, explain some of their reluctance to become involved with each other? 

3. In their conversation about love, Kyra, Anna, and Roya each say things that surprise them. Did anything they said surprise you? 

4. From the beginning, Greta intuits that in cutting herself Kyra was seeking emotional integrity. How do you understand the cutting scene? Do you believe Kyra when she says that she did not want to die but to cut through the surface to see what was real? 

5. After Kyra reads the letter from her mother, Greta says, “So you know what love is.” Does this change your understanding of Kyra’s responses to Andreas? 

6. Referring to therapy, Greta says, “You can’t do this work without love.” How do you think about love in the context of a therapy relationship? 

7. As an architect, Kyra is guided by the vision that to change the way people live, you have to change the structures they live in. When she casts her eye on the structure of therapy, Greta takes her concerns to heart, coming to see that people need to feel free to challenge structures that are not of their own making. At one time or another, most of the characters in the story wrestle with this question. Does this issue come up in your life? 

8. When Kyra hesitates to break her vow and open herself to Andreas, Anna encourages her to do so. Why do you think she does this? 

9. What do Andreas’s letters to Kyra tell you about him? 

10. Abe, Andreas’s father, plays a key role in the life of Jesse, Andreas’s son. What do you make of this three-generational family? At critical points, both Jessie and Abe express their feelings for Kyra to Andreas. Do you see it as a strength in Andreas that he allows himself to be moved by what they say? 

11. When he returns to Budapest, Andreas realizes that “what loyalty meant was no longer simple.” How does his understanding of loyalty change, and how does this alter his response to Kyra and also to his work? 

12. Do you imagine the relationship between Kyra and Andreas continuing? How do you envision their future? How would you resolve the issues of love and work raised in the novel? When Andreas tells Kyra, “I want to be with you,” and then thinks how difficult this would be to arrange, can you see a good way for them to arrange it? 

13. What function do dreams play in this story? Why do Kyra and Greta decide to begin their post-therapy relationship by writing each other their dreams? Do you imagine their relationship continuing? What form do you think it might take? 

14. In her letter to Greta, Kyra writes, “What’s always said about my work is that I saturate my buildings with natural light. I think of Louis Kahn, ‘the shadow belongs to the light.’ ” Does this apply to the novel as a whole? 

15. The characters in this story love to think; they give lectures, go to faculty meetings, direct operas, design cities, talk about paintings, and are passionately engaged with their projects. The history of Europe in the twentieth century has played a central role in their lives. What is the relationship between their experiences as survivors of huge historical traumas and their passion for their work and for each other? 

16. The action of the story takes place on three islands– Nashawena, Cyprus, and Bardsey–as well as in the urban centers of Cambridge, Budapest, and Vienna. Do the mood and action of the story on the islands differ from those in the cities? Does being on an island affect how the characters see and feel? 

17. From the opening scene at Felicia’s to the midnight supper on Bardsey, food is a recurring theme. What does this tell you about the characters and their way of living in the world? 

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