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Catching Heaven Reader’s Guide

By Sands Hall

Catching Heaven by Sands Hall


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Author, Sands Hall, says that in her book, Catching Heaven, she wanted to talk about art and its place in our lives. In our busy schedules, has art become a luxury item?

2. The book raises many questions involving the difference between the “high” arts (theater, paintings) and “low” arts (television, greeting cards). Is this a useful distinction to make? Is a painting inevitably more important than a greeting card?

3. Jake’s chapters all begin with lyrics, Maud’s with lines from Shakespeare. Why are Lizzie’s begun with the things that are pinned to her refrigerator?

4. Hall is clearly thinking a lot about family in the book. On the one hand, her definition of family is expansive. On the other, one of the book’s obvious strengths is its depiction of the two actual sisters. Is family today a fluid concept? Is blood less powerful than it once was?

5. Do you imagine the strains in the relationship between Maud and Lizzie will be repeated by Summer and Hannah?

6. Maud sees the world as a plotted place. Everything is connected to everything else; at the heart of the universe, is order. Lizzie lives in a more chaotic and random world. Which vision seems most right to you?

7. When Maud leaves Los Angeles, she seems to leave little behind in the way of friends. Yet she connects easily with people in Marengo. Why is this?

8. What does the mythology of the West bring to the book? Hall says the West is a place of second chances. Contrast this to Lizzie’s philosophy, expressed in her drawing class, that the most important line you put on a paper is the first one, that everything else flows from the beginning.

9. What does it mean to be a western writer in America? Are the issues and obsessions likely to be the same or different from those the eastern American writer will take on?

10. Lizzie is a prickly character. Do you grow to love her? Do you think she’s a good mother? A good teacher? A good friend?

11. Do you think Jake will be a good father?

12. What do you make of Lizzie’s relationship with Sam? Why was it Maud, and not Lizzie, in the hogan with him when he died? Or was Lizzie there?

13. What do you make of Lizzie’s relationship to Jeep? What does Jeep’s pregnancy mean to Lizzie? To Maud? To Jeep?

14. What motivates Driver’s change of heart?

15. Hall’s three main characters are artists. All are extremely successful up to a point, and all have failed to fully realize their dreams. Which predominates in your vision of these people–their successes or their failures?

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