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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »

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About Grace

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Reading Group Guide

Reader's Group Guide for About Grace

1) The novel is rich with description and symbolism. The symbolism of water is present throughout the story ranging from floods, snowflakes, lakes and oceans to the nature of Winkler's profession. Discuss this symbol in the novel as a whole.

2) Discuss the nature of Sandy and Winkler's relationship. Sandy's point of view is not known to the reader. What do you think motivates her? Why do you think she avoids discussing Winkler's premonitions and sleepwalking?

3) Discuss Winkler's character. What do you think of the choices he made? What were the most important events of his childhood? How did the relationship with his parents along with his earliest premonition shape his character? What is your overall opinion of Winkler?

4) How do the lives of Felix and Soma compare to Winkler's? Why do you think Winkler becomes so attached to the family and, in particular, Naaliyah? What do you think prompts Winkler to return to Ohio after almost two decades on St. Vincent's? Why do you think he stayed so long?

5) While Winkler visits the first Grace Winkler, her son Jed "predicts" certain things about Winkler's journey. Where does Winkler's journey lead him? Was Jed's prediction accurate?

6) Winkler describes his journey at one point as "Another kind of purgatory: a waiting to wake up." What does this mean? How is the notion of purgatory explored throughout Winkler's story?

7) Discuss Naaliyah's character. What is the nature of her relationship with Winkler? What aspects of her personality are revealed during her time at "Camp Nowhere"?

8) What is the significance of the winter spent at "Camp Nowhere"? How does Winkler change during this time? What is the importance of the snowflakes he works to collect?

9) Herman Sheeler figures prominently later in the story. Describe his personality. Why do you think he makes the decision to befriend and help Winkler?

10) Describe the relationship between Grace and Winkler. How does she ultimately come to accept Winkler in her life?

11) The story takes place in a variety of richly described locations. What are some of the most memorable? What aspects of these locations help or hinder Winkler through his turmoil? How do you think these various environments help to tell the story?

12) Do you think Winkler's story reached a resolution? In the final chapter of the book, Winkler dreams. Explain the symbolism of this final dream.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Gold Gato, January 24, 2012 (view all comments by Gold Gato)
Languid. This is a languid book requiring the reader to lower their metabolism to match the flow of the page. If the reader can do this, if the reader can build patience, then a world of graceful prose will be the reward.

The mythology of the Great Flood still lives in our heads. The fear and awe of water and waves and violent whitecaps.

"We live in the beds of ancient oceans." Water and its transformation into snowflakes form the basis of this novel. The water in each of us that longs to return to the sea, from whence it came. The main protagonist transforms also, even though it can be hard on the reader. We want to push him, force him to make an effort, DO SOMETHING!

As I continued reading, I thought of Joyce:

All day I hear the noise of waters making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water's monotone.

The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing where I go.
I hear the noise of many waters far below.
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.

But David Winkler is trapped by his dreams. He runs from them and stays away until his transformation is completed. Like a snowflake.

"To enter a world of shadows is to leave this world for another." Yet we stay patient and we read on, because now we are attached to David Winkler. He is a refugee. We all are, in one way or another. His travels from Alaska to Ohio to the Caribbean involve us more and more, even as we barely notice other major characters enter the book.

I truly enjoyed this novel, even though I fought it. The author dictates the character's pace, so it's my job as the reader to adjust my expectations and adapt to the protagonist. I was justly rewarded.

Book Season = Winter (brew some herbal tea)

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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743261821
Subtitle:
A Novel
Publisher:
Scribner
Author:
Doerr, Anthony
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Dreams
Subject:
Fathers and daughters
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Publication Date:
September 21, 2004
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9.30x6.58x1.25 in. 1.49 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

About Grace
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 416 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743261821 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A compelling protagonist and a lyrical style grounded in precise observation of the physical world...[a] complex, ambitious first novel....A bold attempt...by a gifted writer whose own future looms promisingly indeed."
"Review" by , "Doerr's characters pale in comparison with the natural world he so powerfully portrays around them."
"Review" by , "About Grace is a taut, gorgeously written odyssey of heartbreak and self-forgiveness. It is indeed about grace — what happens when we have found it yet manage to lose it — and about so much more: the power of love, the power of grief, and above all the power of dreams."
"Review" by , "About Grace is a stunning meditation on chance and pattern, exile and home. Gorgeous, transporting, and deeply, deeply satisfying. Equal parts science and magic (but all of it magical)."
"Review" by , "I loved this wonderful book — its strangeness, its obsessiveness, its beautiful sentences."
"Review" by , "Like a gazetteer of a singular existence, About Grace is worldly — it takes place in Alaska, Ohio, the Caribbean — yet the story and its unusual hero, David Winkler, right away become fixed in a reader's attentions and stay there. About Grace is full of exacting dreams, marvelous incident, tragicomic underpinnings, and a dedication to the fundamental eccentricity of life. With the stories in The Shell Collector, we discovered a writer of immense talent; this novel gives us a sense that Mr. Doerr may become an indispensable one."
"Synopsis" by , From an award-winning author whose first collection of stories was "as close to faultless as any writer — young or vastly experienced — could wish for" (Los Angeles Times) — comes an astonishingly beautiful, wise, and heartbreaking novel.
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