Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. What do you think the tiger has in mind in Mary’s tiger dream? What is the dream’s significance?
2. Discuss your thoughts about the shift back and forth in time in the memoir. What is its effect on the overall reading experience?
3. Why do you think Mary chose to make some of the chapters very short? Did this enhance your reading experience or distract from it?
4. Mary’s descriptions of the streets of Delhi are quite vivid and detailed. They paint a picture of extreme poverty, but Mary isn’t put off by it. Rather, she is fascinated by the “pulsing, mad city.” Do you think you would react in a similar way?
5. Mary’s decision to skate for just “five more minutes” has far-reaching consequences. Have you made a seemingly innocuous decision that turned out to be far more life-altering than it seemed at the time? If so, what was it, and how did it affect your decision-making in future?
6. Few things are worse than being ill when you are traveling. Did you admire Mary’s ability to push through her illness and continue her trip? Or do you think she should have cut the trip short and returned home?
7. Mary’s memories of her parents are artfully woven into the story of her trip to India. Discuss your impressions of her parents and what the recollections add to the memoir as a whole.
8. Mary’s medical odyssey is harrowing, to say the least. Do you think her path to healing would be easier today? Or possibly even more challenging?
9. “Real travelers, like real writers, move through this world like a child.” After reading All the Way to the Tigers, what do you think travel means to the author? What is the significance of travel in your own life?
10. What do you think the reason is for an unseen tiger being referred to as a “she”?
11. “The solitude and wildness of the tiger reaches into our most primitive selves. Perhaps they are a reminder of another time when we too roamed free.” Tigers clearly speak to Mary in a deep and resonant way. Is there an animal that holds this power for you and, if so, why?
12. Mary’s doctor postponed giving her his prognosis. What do you think of his delay in telling her? Did he do her a favor or a disservice?
13. Discuss the ending of the memoir and the powerful moment of clarity that Mary experiences as she begins her journey home. What effect did it have on you and your reflections on the journeys you’ve taken in your own life?
by John Vaillant Death in Venice
by Thomas Mann Life of Pi
by Yann Martel The Spider’s House
by Paul Bowles Palace Walk
by Naguib Mahfouz The Tribe of the Tiger
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas Invisible Cities
by Italo Calvino