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Highway Blue Reader’s Guide

By Ailsa McFarlane

Highway Blue by Ailsa McFarlane

READERS GUIDE

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Highway Blue begins with a phone conversation with Anne Marie’s cousin, Tricia. How does this set the tone at the start of the novel, and what role does family play more generally throughout the course of the novel?

2. How would you describe the style in which Highway Blue is written? How does Ailsa McFarlane’s writing style reflect Anne Marie’s view on the world?

3. How would you describe the style in which Highway Blue is written? How does Ailsa McFarlane’s writing style reflect Anne Marie’s view on the world?

4. Neither Anne Marie nor Cal know what caused the gun to go off in the alley. How is violence handled throughout this scene, and how does this ambiguity reflect the predicament of our characters?     

5. Anne Marie calls her former belief in love “another cultural misstep in the wiring of my brain.” How do you think Anne Marie might have arrived at this understanding?  

6. Anne Marie can sometimes reflects on herself and the body in almost forensic corporeal detail: “Bunches of cells, that was all it was, and that was all we were;” “His snoring made me think about the two wet heavy bags which were his lungs hemmed in by meat;” “I seemed such an odd construction of white bone and slick red muscle and nameless yellow sludge all tied up with sinews and tendons and packaged mechanically to stand or fall.” At what point do such observations occur, and what might they say about how Anne Marie sees things?

7. Anne Marie can sometimes reflects on herself and the body in almost forensic corporeal detail: “Bunches of cells, that was all it was, and that was all we were;” “His snoring made me think about the two wet heavy bags which were his lungs hemmed in by meat;” “I seemed such an odd construction of white bone and slick red muscle and nameless yellow sludge all tied up with sinews and tendons and packaged mechanically to stand or fall.” At what point do such observations occur, and what might they say about how Anne Marie sees things?

8. Anne Marie can sometimes reflects on herself and the body in almost forensic corporeal detail: “Bunches of cells, that was all it was, and that was all we were;” “His snoring made me think about the two wet heavy bags which were his lungs hemmed in by meat;” “I seemed such an odd construction of white bone and slick red muscle and nameless yellow sludge all tied up with sinews and tendons and packaged mechanically to stand or fall.” At what point do such observations occur, and what might they say about how Anne Marie sees things?

9. Highway Blue is set across a vast and mythical American landscape. Why do you think the author chose not to situate the book in real places? Does this change how you read the novel, and what freedoms might this imagined territory give?

10. What might Cal and Anne Marie’s destination of Eidon come to represent in the novel?

11. “If something has happened to you that you didn’t like or if something has made you feel small or useless or stupid, you just leave behind the life that dropped you in the middle of that experience and slip away into another one,” Anne Marie says. “You build another person.” In which way does Anne Marie’s journey shape her? And to what extent has she ‘built another person’ by the end of the novel? 

12. To which extent can Highway Blue be read as a quest narrative? What might Anne Marie be in search of throughout her journey?

 
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