Synopses & Reviews
In this astonishing debut, Tracy Winn poignantly chronicles the souls who inhabit the troubled mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts, playing out their struggles and hopes over the course of the twentieth century. Through a stunning variety of voices, Winn paints a deep and permeating portrait of the town and its people: a young millworker who dreams of marrying rich and becoming “Mrs. Somebody Somebody”; an undercover union organizer whose privileged past shapes her cause; a Korean War veteran who returns to the wife he never really got to know—and the couple’s overindulged children, who grow up to act out against their parents; a town resident who reflects on a long-lost love and the treasure he keeps close to his heart. Winn’s keen insight into class and human nature, combined with her perfect, nuanced prose, make Mrs. Somebody Somebody truly shine.
In this astonishing debut, Winn poignantly chronicles the souls who inhabit the troubled milltown of Lowell, Massachusetts, playing out their struggles and hopes over the course of the 20th century.
About the Author
Tracy Winn earned her MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and has had stories published in New Orleans Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Western Humanities Review, among other venues. She works with Gaining Ground, a local nonprofit farm that gives its produce to local shelters and meal programs. She lives near Boston with her husband and daughter.
Reading Group Guide
1. Which of the characters in this book do you identify with most? Why? Which characters would you want to spend more time with?
2. A character from one story often reappears in another, as do objects such as the red-striped music box. How do the reappearances of characters and things affect your emotional response and add to the layers of meaning in both the original story and the stories in which the repetition appears?
3. Do you think the author is presenting an optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic view of the world? What specifi c parts of the stories lead you to feel as you do? For example, how do you interpret the last line of the book?
4. In the title story, Stella says “Mrs. Somebody Somebody was exactly who I wanted to be. The way some kids grow up knowing they want to be mayor, want to have their name in the book of history, I wanted to wear a white dress and a ring that said I was taken care of ” (page 17). Why do you think Stella cares so much about marriage? What do you think of the shape her life took?
5. Why do you think Charlie stays with Delia? How would you say he changes over the course of the book?
6. If Stella Lewis had ever had the chance to meet Augustus Wetherbee, do you think she would have liked him?
7. What do you think Augustus Wetherbee wants in “Glass Box”?
8. Who would you say is putting doll shoes in and around Kaylene’s car, and why?
9. Children in this book fi nd themselves in diffi cult situations. Franklin wakes to a dinner party in “Smoke.” Kaylene tries to keep track of Dawn’s money in “Another Way to Make Cleopatra Cry.” Izabel Tiago has trouble with a rooster in “Cantogallo,” and Helen makes a phone call in “Copper Leaves Waving.” Do you consider any of these children heroic?
10. What do you make of the language Kaylene uses to tell her story in “Another Way to Make Cleopatra Cry”? Is she simply a bratty kid with a lip on her?
11. Are the immigrants in “Cantogallo” different from those in “Mrs. Somebody Somebody”? How?
12. Though the stories are independent, there are several themes that link them all. What do you think those themes are?
13. Do you think these stories could have taken place anywhere other than Lowell? Other than the Northeast as a whole? Why?