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Lark and Termite (Vintage Contemporaries)by Jayne Anne Phillips
Reading Group Guide
1. Have you read any of Jayne Anne Phillips's other books? If so, in what ways is Lark and Termite similar to her earlier work, and how is it different?
2. Reread the quotations in the epigraph. Now that you've read the novel, what does each one mean to you?
3. On page 6, Leavitt thinks, "The war makes ghosts of them all." In what ways does this prove true? Which ghosts are literal, and which metaphorical?
4. Who is the strongest person in the novel? The weakest?
5. Mothers, and substitute mothers, play a substantial role in the novel. What do you think Jayne Anne Phillips is trying to say about motherhood?
6. Compare and contrast the sibling relationships in the novel: Lark and Termite, Nonie and Lola, and the nameless Korean pair.
7. Discuss the sense of sound as it relates to each of the main characters. In what ways does sound function differently for Termite than for Nonie or Lark? What about Leavitt and Lola? What does the sense of sound say about the importance of language?
8. Two different tunnels are the settings for major developments in the novel. What do they signify?
9. On page 27, Lola says of Lark, "I gave her a bird's name. Maybe she'll grow up safe and fly away." And on page 37 Lark discusses Termite’s nickname: "I think he's in himself like a termite's in a wall." What other names in the novel carry metaphorical weight?
10. Why does Charlie take care of Lola? What about Onslow?
11. "Termite can only tell the truth," Lark says on page 94. Who else tells the truth? Who lies? What are the ramifications?
12. What role does Solly play? What about his father, Nick?
13. Throughout the novel, we revisit events from different perspectives. How do the multiple takes change your understanding of what's happening?
14. On page 158, Lark says, "It's almost as though Stamble and Termite are related versions of something, but Stamble walks around in the world and Termite doesn't." Who is Robert Stamble? Why does Lark see him?
15. Where do you think Termite's new wheelchair really came from?
16. Discuss the flood. How is each character's life affected?
17. Reread and discuss the final Termite passages, on pages 276-277. What is revealed there?
18. Does the novel have a happy ending?
(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)
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