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The Company Car:by C. J. Hribal
Reading Group Guide
1. In what ways is Emmie like his father and in what ways is he like his
mother? Where do you see these similarities most strongly in the
2. How do Emmies similarities to his parents illuminate your understanding
of Emmies relationship with his wife? What parallels exist
between the two couples?
3. How did you respond to the character of Dorie, Emmies wife? Did
you like her? Did you find her sympathetic? To what extent did
Emmies portrayal of his mother as the primary caretaker of the
family—alone with seven children while her husband is on the road
or drinking—affect your view of his wifes resistance to assuming
that role, her desire for independence and escape? To what extent
did Emmies sympathy for his mother extend to his wife?
4. How does the Zbigniew Herbert epigraph, “Its good what happened /
its good whats going to happen / even whats happening right now /
its okay,” encapsulate the novels themes?
5. Despite their struggles, what are the qualities that make Wally and
Susan Maries marriage work? Does the marriage hold together because
of social mores about divorce, or out of habit or momentum,
or something more?
6. In the chapter “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” the author uses retrospective
narration to allow the reader to experience Emmies childhood. Was
this effective for you? Do you prefer one type of point of view in
general? Are there other literary techniques used in the novel that
you found particularly effective?
7. How is change and/or the passage of time treated in the novel? How
do the various characters deal with change? Wally? Emmie? Dorie?
8. What is Emmies attitude toward his family story? Is he nostalgic?
Reverential? Critical? Matter-of-fact? What does the way in which
he tells us the story reveal about his character? Do you have a family
story? How has it affected who you are today?
9. Trace the situations in which the issue of fidelity emerges in the
novel. How do questions of marital fidelity or infidelity connect with
themes of loyalty, independence and personal identity in the novel?
10. What series of events bring the Czabecks to leave the suburbs? What
major events and/or details stand out from their years on the farm?
What similarities exist between the two locations?
11. In the first chapter of the novel, photographs of Wally and Susan
Marie as young people are described in great detail. How do these
descriptions prepare us for the stories and characters that are to
come? How are they connected to the novels themes? Did you find
these descriptions helpful?
12. Did you feel this novel was Emmies story primarily, or was it a bigger
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