Synopses & Reviews
Hard-shelled, career-minded Greta is the newest and least likely member of a sustainable foods cooperative house in Madison, Wisconsin. Shortly after she joins Karin and Hal in their stately residence near campus, the husband Greta left appears on their porch, drunk, and the reason for her sudden appearance becomes clear. Yet the house members already have plenty to occupy them: a series of summer blackouts has unearthed a disquietude lurking just under the surface for each of the three residents. Gas is dwindling, electricity is unreliable, and the natural world around them is in upheaval. The uneasiness of the environ ment mirrors that of Greta, Hal, and Karin as they each make efforts to resolve their own personal crises. With subtle attunement to the hovering uncertainty affecting each of her characters, Wildgen crafts a story both terrifying and beautiful.
Greta has left her old life behind and moved into a sustainable foods co-op in Madison, Wisconsin. Just as she begins to settle in with her two housemates, the husband she left behind appears on their porch, drunk. His arrival begins a dark three-day period during which all three residents of the house will have to reckon with a disquietude lurking under the surface of their little society. A series of summer blackouts, gas shortages, and an ominous disappearance will force them all out into a larger world that seems everywhere on the verge of crisis.
About the Author
MICHELLE WILDGEN is a senior editor at Tin House
. Her first novel, Youre Not You
, a New York Times
Editors Choice and one of People
Magazines Ten Best Books of 2006, is now in development for film by Hilary Swank and Denise DiNovi. Wildgens work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine
, The New York Times
, and literary journals including Prairie Schooner
Reading Group Guide
Discussion Questions 1. What do you think draws Greta to the co-op? Hal and Karin? 2. How does the presentation and perception of community change over the course of the novel? 3. What about family? Do you think either institution, family or community, seems to be an effective source of comfort or strength to the characters, and why? 4. How does the movement of narration from one character to another affect how you see each person? Do you see Hal differently through Karins eyes, or Gretas, than you did through his own point of view, for instance? 5. Whats making these characters so uneasy? Do these uncertainties resonate with you? Do they feel like something that could happen? Already have? 6. What effect does this uneasiness have on everyones ability to connect with one another, or with their larger community? 7. How do you feel about Will and Gretas relationship? Do you think one is more culpable than the other in bringing about their separation? Why? 8. There are several examples of alternatives to the one-family house in this novel: the various co-ops, the cheesemakers farm with her extended family living on it. Do these seem very different from the single-family home to you? Why or why not? 9. Why do you think Karin and Greta are so tense with one another? When does that tension start and what exacerbates it? Where do you think theyll go from here? 10. How do you feel about the relationships between the co-op members—Karin and Hal, Greta and Hal, Greta and Karin? Are they any more or less difficult than family relationships? Do you think these relationships will continue to deepen? 11. Why does Hals father retreat from his family? Why do you think that, of all his siblings, Hal is the most upset by it? 12. Who did you identify with the most? Who interested you the most, whether you could relate to them or not? 13. What do you think occurs after the novel ends?