Synopses & Reviews
David Grossman was born in Jerusalem, where he still lives. He is the best-selling author of many works of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature, which have been translated into thirty-six languages. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the French Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Buxtehuder Bulle in Germany, Rome’s Premio per la Pace e l’Azione Umanitaria, the Premio Ischia International Award for Journalism, Israel’s Emet Prize, and the 2010 Frankfurt Peace Prize.
"Although it's identified as a novel, this searing narrative from Israeli writer Grossman is not cast in traditional form. A mixture of free-verse, prose, and stage directions, it's a searching cri de coeur an impassioned exploration of existential questions about life and death. In Grossman's previous novel, To the End of the Land, a son is lost in battle; while Grossman was writing that book, his own son was killed in Israel's 2006 war with Lebanon. Here, a bereaved father, who, after five years, still cannot come to terms with his son's death, leaves his wife and home to try to find the 'there,' where the boy's soul resides. As he relentlessly walks through and around his village, the Walking Man is joined by others who have lost their children. His voice intense, anguished, almost deranged by grief is mediated by the Town Chronicler, who also introduces the voices of the other seekers the net mender, the midwife, the duke, the cobbler, the math teacher, the centaur who join the Walking Man. In hoping to be granted even a moment of communication with the dead, the Walking Man laments 'the vast expanse his death/ created in me,' and his need to embrace 'this/ lonely/ dead/ child.' This piercingly sad elegy culminates in a moment of peace in which the community of the bereaved contemplates the cycle of life and death. The precision and sensory depth of Grossman's language renders this unconventional work an unforgettable and magnificent document of suffering." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the internationally acclaimed author of A Woman in Jerusalem, a novel about a musician who returns home and finds the rhythm of her life interrupted and forever changed
About the Author
1. As Falling Out of Time opens, Walking Man and his wife are embroiled in a tense discussion about whether or not he should embark on his journey. Why does his wife protest the decision? How does her perspective on her husband’s journey change in the course of the book?
2. On page 20, Walking Man’s wife asks him: “Will I ever again / see you / as you are, / rather than as / he is not?” How is the relationship between husband and wife changed by the loss of a child? How does it affect specific couples in the novel—the Town Chronicler and his wife, the Midwife and the Cobbler?
3. The Town Chronicler is initially introduced as a sort of omnipresent force who objectively catalogs the events of the town from a distance. Yet as the book progresses, his own melancholia is revealed. What initiates this change? What does this
4. Walking Man begins his journey by circling his own home—in hopes of getting his wife to join him—and gradually widens his path to cover greater swaths of the town. Why do you think the author chose to make his path circular rather than linear?
5. On page 50, the Duke calls himself “an impostor of sorts, a sham / pretending to be an everyman.” Over the course of the narrative, how does the Duke’s admission of loss bring him closer to the townspeople? Does the shared experience of loss make him an “everyman”?
6. Explore the relationship between the Duke and the Town Chronicler. What did you make of the edict from the Duke? Did you believe that the Duke ordered the Town Chronicler not to mention his loss, or do you think that the Town Chronicler’s reticence developed as a coping mechanism?
7. The Centaur initially challenges the authority of the Town Chronicler, taunting him for his government role, but on page 174, he describes him as a “friend.” How does this tension eventually lead to mutual respect? How does it help to unite the townspeople?
8. At the beginning of the narrative, the Town Chronicler observes that the mute net-mender has broken her nine-year silence and that her voice is “heavenly.” How does this description contrast with her physical description? When the Duke refers to her as “Lady of the Nets” on page 160, is it done ironically or as a sign of respect?
9. Why do you think the Midwife stutters throughout? What leads her husband to think that “her words are / hardly broken / anymore!” on page 131?
10. Falling Out of Time is a unique blend of prose, poetry, and drama. Why do you think the author chose to structure the narrative in such a way?
11. In the first section of the book, the dialogue moves from character to character, but in Part II, the townspeople’s voices are often considered collectively as “Walkers.” What does this say about the shared experience of grief? How does the similarity of their experiences bring a leveling effect to their society?
12. On pages 147–48, several characters struggle to remember who they are. What does this say about the shift in identity after the death of a child? How does memory interfere with their ability to redefine themselves?
13. Several characters express regrets about how they interacted with their children, or about how time was spent with a child. Whose admissions had the greatest impact on you?
14. Why do you think the author chose to represent the writer character as a Centaur? How does the Centaur’s struggle to write reflect the mourner’s communal struggle to communicate?
15. On page 160, the Walkers state that “poetry / is the language / of my grief.” Do you agree? How is this reflected in the text?
16. On page 94, the Centaur expresses his struggle to articulate death: “Death will deathify, / or is it deathened? Deatherized? / Deathered?” What does the Centaur’s “little game” say about the limitations—or flexibility—of language? How does the playful transformation of the word “death” limit or enhance its power for the speaker?
17. What does the appearance of the boy on page 189 signify? How do the townspeople react to hearing his voice? Explore the notion that “there / is breath / inside the pain.”
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Falling Out of Time, internationally acclaimed author David Grossman’s powerful, genre-defying exploration of grief and bereavement as experienced by residents of a small village.