Book Clubs & Shared Reading

Going to Solace is an ideal novel for shared reading because of its universality heightened by a “hidden” approach to race among the characters. For more on this aspect of the book, take a look at these themes and conversation starters.

Otherwise, here are some questions to consider in discussions about the book. Question 2 yields particularly interesting results since most readers are unaware that some of the characters are written to be “racially relative,” that is, they can be seen (and, in fact, are seen) in very different ways by different readers:

1.Whom do you love in this book and why? Who drives you crazy and why?

2.How do you picture the characters? Does what you imagine differ from the ways that other readers see them?

3.How would you describe the language of this novel, both the characters’ way of speaking/thinking and the author’s voice?

4.Why did the author choose to create a story through multiple points of view in close third person? What does this suggest about the book’s underlying subject(s)?

5.We meet characters who are articulate but unschooled, characters who are “simple” but ingenious. Consider the different kinds of intelligence explored in the novel.

6.We meet all kinds of mothers and fathers here. How are they trying to do right by their families? How are they succeeding (both in their own terms and in yours)? How are they failing?

7.Communities like the Pineys in the Appalachian Mountains were established as geographical crossroads. How does that theme play out through the book, both narratively and symbolically?

8.Think about time in the book: Why is set in 1989? Why Thanksgiving week? The story arc runs chronologically: Does that have thematic resonance?

9.Discuss the different ways in which the characters turn to spirituality and religion for wisdom and/or support. How do their spiritual philosophies help or hurt them? How do they make you feel?

10.What does it mean to be a family in the world of this book? What is neighborliness? Is that different from the community in which you live?

11.If the characters’ actions imply a regional code of behavior, what would its values be?

12.If we described this book as a war novel, how would that be apt? In what ways does it fit the war novel genre?

13.If we described this book as a science fiction novel, how would that be apt? In what ways does it fit the science fiction genre?

14.Consider the theme of comfort in the novel. What is its value? Who needs it? Who offers it? Is there a skill to offering it? Have you found comfort in your life or do you believe it to be in short supply these days?

15.There are all kinds of love considered and expressed in this novel. Which ones work for the characters and how? Which ones work for you?

16.As you followed these characters’ stories, what stories were you reminded of in your own life?

Solace Waterwheel 4