Bildungsroman

Daisy Jones & the Six

Author: 
Reid, Taylor Jenkins

Everyone knows Daisy Jones and The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity … until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go.

The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Discussion Guide: 

1. This book is written in an oral history format. Why do you think the author chose to structure the book this way? How does this approach affect your reading experience?

2. At one point Daisy says, "I was just supposed to be the inspiration for some man’s great idea.… I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse." How does her experience of being used by others contribute to the decisions she makes when she joins The Six?

3. Why do you think Billy has such a strong need to control the group, both early on when they are simply the Dunne Brothers and later when they become Daisy Jones & The Six?

4. There are two sets of brothers in The Six: Eddie and Pete Loving, and Billy and Graham Dunne. How do these sibling relationships affect the band?

5. Daisy, Camila, Simone, and Karen are each very different embodiments of female strength and creativity. Who are you most drawn to and why?

6. Billy and Daisy become polarizing figures for the band. Who in the book gravitates more toward Billy’s leadership, and who is more inclined to follow Daisy’s way of doing things? How do these alliances change over time, and how does this dynamic upset the group’s balance?

7. Why do you think Billy and Daisy clash so strongly? What misunderstandings between them are revealed through the "author’s" investigation?

8. What do you think of Camila’s decision to stand by Billy, despite the ways that he has hurt her through his trouble with addiction and wavering faithfulness? How would you describe their relationship? How does it differ from Billy and Daisy’s relationship?

9. Camila says about Daisy and Billy, "The two of you think you’re lost souls, but you’re what everybody is looking for." What does she mean by this?

10. As you read the lyrics to Aurora, are there any songs or passages that lead you to believe Daisy or Billy was intimating things within their work that they wouldn’t admit to each other or themselves?

11. What do you think of Karen’s decision about her pregnancy and Graham’s reaction to the news? What part do gender roles play in their situation?

12. Were you surprised to discover who the "author" was? How did you react to learning the "author’s" reason for writing this book?

13. What role does the reliability of memory play in the novel? Were there instances in which you believed one person’s account of an event more than another? What does the "author" mean when she states at the beginning, "The truth often lies, unclaimed, in the middle"?

14. What did you think of the songs written by Daisy Jones & The Six? How did you imagine they would sound?

15. If you are old enough to have your own memories of the 1970s, do you feel the author captured that time period well? If you didn’t experience the seventies yourself, what did this fictional depiction of the time evoke for you?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

Where the Crawdads Sing

Author: 
Owens, Delia

For years, rumors of the Marsh Girl have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens. Through Kya's story, Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Discussion Guide: 

1. The North Carolina marsh where Kya lives has long been a sanctuary for outsiders. How does this setting shape the novel? How does growing up in this isolation affect Kya? In what ways does her status as an "outsider" change how others see her?

2. Why does Kya choose not to go back to school? Do you think she makes the wrong decision? How does Kya’s lack of formal education shape her vision of the world? Would her character be different if she had gone to school?

3. After Jodie and Pa leave Kya alone, she becomes close to Jumpin’ and Mabel. Why are these two adults drawn to Kya? What do they teach her about the world? Do you agree with Jumpin’s decision to protect Kya from social services (p. 110) and to encourage her to live alone in the marsh? Why or why not?

4. Why do you think Kya’s mother leaves in the beginning? Do you agree with her decision?

5. Kya often watches the other young people from town --- she even nicknames them "Tallskinnyblonde, Ponytailfreckleface, Shortblackhair, Alwayswearspearls, and Roundchubbycheeks" (p. 80). What does Kya learn from observing these girls? Why do you think she keeps her watching secret? Do you agree with Kya’s secrecy?

6. How is womanhood explored throughout the novel? What does being a woman mean to Kya? How does she relate to the other women in Barkley Cove?

7. Discuss Kya’s relationship with Tate. How does Tate’s understanding of Kya change over time? Is Tate a good partner for Kya? Why or why not?

8. Tate’s father tells him that poems are important because "they make ya feel something" (p. 48). What does poetry mean to Tate? What does it mean to Kya? How does poetry help Kya throughout the novel?

9. On page 142, Kya watches the fireflies near her shack, and notices that the females can change their flashes to signal different things. What does this realization mean to Kya? What does it teach her about relationships? How does this lesson influence Kya’s decisions in the second half of the novel?

10. Discuss how Kya’s observations of nature shape her vision of the world. Do you think these lessons adequately prepare her for life in Barkley Cove? Do you think human society follows the same rules as the natural world? Should it? Why or why not?

11. Is Chase a different kind of man than Tate? How are they different? Is one man better? Do you think that their differences are biological or learned? How does Kya see each man?

12. By the end of the novel, Kya thinks, “Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would. If consequences resulted from her behaving differently, then they too were functions of life’s fundamental core” (p. 363). What does she mean? Do you agree with her philosophy? What do you think it means to be a good person? Do you think Kya is a good person? Why or why not?

13. Were you surprised by the verdict in the Chase’s murder trial? What about by the ending of the novel? Do you agree with Tate’s final decision? Why or why not?

(from ReadingGroupGuides)

Ordinary Grace

Author: 
Krueger, William Kent

That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

SPOILER ALERT
1. Talk about the characters, starting with Ruth and Nathan Drum, the narrator's mother and father. How would you describe them and, especially, their marriage?

2. What do you think of Emil Brandt and his sister?

3. How would you describe Gus? What is the bond between Gus and Nathan based on? What do you think was the event during the war that the two refer to obliquely as they sit together in the darkened church.

4. Discuss, in particular, Nathan's sermon after Ariel's death? What are its theological implications? Does Nathan answer the question of theodicy: if God is loving and all powerful, why do bad things to happen to good people?

5. What prompts Frank, after his father's sermon, to go to Jake and tell him, "You're my best friend in the whole world. You always have been and you always will be"?

6. Why is Ruth so angry with Nathan after Ariel disappears? How would you respond to such a horrific loss: would you respond as Ruth does, in anger? Or would you be more like Nathan?

7. How would you define grace? What, specifically, does "ordinary grace" refer to in the story, and what is the larger religious significance of the term "ordinary grace"? Why is the grace spoken by Jake so extraordinary...and how does it affect members of his family?

8. Whom did you first suspect...and when did you begin to suspect the real killer? What "red herrings" (false clues) does the author put in the way to lead readers down the wrong path?

9. Much of the book has to do with young Frank's attempt to separate what he thinks he knows from what might (or might not) be the ultimate truth. Have you even been in a position of "knowing" something with certainty...and then learning that your judgment was wrong? How can we guard ourselves against false accusations?

10. What does Warren Redstone mean when he says to Frank, "You've just killed me, white boy"? Why does Frank let Redstone escape? Even Jake tells us...

How could I possibly explain my silence, my complicity in his escape, things I didn't really understand myself? My heart had simply directed me in a way my  head couldn't wrap its thinking around....

Was Jake wrong to let Redstone get away? Should he have kept silent?

11. Talk about Karl Brandt and how he dies—an accident...or intentional?

12. What do you think happened to Bobby Cole? Why might the author have left that mystery unresolved?

(Questions by LitLovers.)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: 
Lee, Harper

Winner, 1961 Pulitzer Prize

At the age of eight, Scout Finch is an entrenched free-thinker. She can accept her father's warning that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, because mockingbirds harm no one and give great pleasure. The benefits said to be gained from going to school and keeping her temper elude her.

The place of this enchanting, intensely moving story is Maycomb, Alabama. The time is the Depression, but Scout and her brother, Jem, are seldom depressed. They have appalling gifts for entertaining themselves—appalling, that is, to almost everyone except their wise lawyer father, Atticus.

Atticus is a man of unfaltering good will and humor, and partly because of this, the children become involved in some disturbing adult mysteries: fascinating Boo Radley, who never leaves his house; the terrible temper of Mrs. Dubose down the street; the fine distinctions that make the Finch family "quality"; the forces that cause the people of Maycomb to show compassion in one crisis and unreasoning cruelty in another.

Also because Atticus is what he is, and because he lives where he does, he and his children are plunged into a conflict that indelibly marks their lives—and gives Scout some basis for thinking she knows just about as much about the world as she needs to. (From Barnes and Noble.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. How do Scout, Jem, and Dill characterize Boo Radley at the beginning of the book? In what way did Boo's past history of violence foreshadow his method of protecting Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell? Does this repetition of aggression make him more or less of a sympathetic character?

2. In Scout's account of her childhood, her father Atticus reigns supreme. How would you characterize his abilities as a single parent? How would you describe his treatment of Calpurnia and Tom Robinson vis a vis his treatment of his white neighbors and colleagues? How would you typify his views on race and class in the larger context of his community and his peers?

3. The title of Lee's book is alluded to when Atticus gives his children air rifles and tells them that they can shoot all the bluejays they want, but "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." At the end of the novel, Scout likens the "sin" of naming Boo as Bob Ewell's killer to "shootin' a mockingbird." Do you think that Boo is the only innocent, or mockingbird, in this novel?

4. Scout ages two years—from six to eight—over the course of Lee's novel, which is narrated from her perspective as an adult. Did you find the account her narrator provides believable? Were there incidents or observations in the book that seemed unusually "knowing" for such a young child? What event or episode in Scout's story do you feel truly captures her personality?

5. To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged repeatedly by the political left and right, who have sought to remove it from libraries for its portrayal of conflict between children and adults; ungrammatical speech; references to sex, the supernatural, and witchcraft; and unfavorable presentation of blacks. Which elements of the book-if any-do you think touch on controversial issues in our contemporary culture? Did you find any of those elements especially troubling, persuasive, or insightful?

6. Jem describes to Scout the four "folks" or classes of people in Maycomb County: "our kind of folks don't like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don't like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the colored folks." What do you think of the ways in which Lee explores race and class in 1930s Alabama? What significance, if any, do you think these characterizations have for people living in other parts of the world?

7. One of the chief criticisms of To Kill a Mockingbird is that the two central storylines—Scout, Jem, and Dill's fascination with Boo Radley and the trial between Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson—are not sufficiently connected in the novel. Do you think that Lee is successful in incorporating these different stories? Were you surprised at the way in which these story lines were resolved? Why or why not?

8. By the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, the book's first sentence: "When he was thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow," has been explained and resolved. What did you think of the events that followed the Halloween pageant? Did you think that Bob Ewell was capable of injuring Scout or Jem? How did you feel about Boo Radley's last-minute intervention?

9. What elements of this book did you find especially memorable, humorous, or inspiring? Are there individual characters whose beliefs, acts, or motives especially impressed or surprised you? Did any events in this book cause you to reconsider your childhood memories or experiences in a new light?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

South of Broad

Author: 
Conroy, Pat

Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a respected Joyce scholar.

After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of ten, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X-and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades, from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The ties among them endure for years, surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, as well as Charleston's dark legacy of racism and class divisions. But the final test of friendship that brings them to San Francisco is something no one is prepared for.

South of Broad is Pat Conroy at his finest: a long-awaited work from a great American writer whose passion for life and language knows no bounds. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. At the beginning of the novel, Leo is called on to mitigate the racial prejudice of the football team. What other types of prejudice appear in the novel? Which characters are guilty of relying on preconceived notions? Why do you think Leo is so accepting of most people? Why is his mother so condemnatory?

2. What do you think of the title "South of Broad"? How does the setting inform the novel? Would the novel be very different if it were set in another city or region?

3. As a teenager, Leo is heavily penalized for refusing to name the boy who placed drugs in his pocket. Why did he feel compelled to protect the boy's identity? Do you think he did the right thing?

4. When Leo's mother asks him to meet his new peers, she warns, “Help them, but do not make friends with them.” Do you think such a thing possible? Through the novel, how does Leo help his friends, and how do they help him?

5. Leo's mother tells him, “We're afraid the orphans and the Poe kids will use you,” to which he responds, “I don't mind being needed. I don't even mind being used.” Do you think this is a healthy attitude toward friendship? Do any of the characters end up “using” Leo? Does his outlook on friendship changed by the end of the novel?

6. Leo admits that the years after Steven's suicide nearly killed him. How was he able to cope? How do Leo's parents deal with their grief? What does the novel say about human resilience and our propensity to overcome tragedy?

7. When Sheba suggests to Leo that he divorce his wife, he says, “I knew there were problems when I married Starla so I didn't walk into that marriage blind.” Do you think that knowledge obligates Leo to stay with his wife? In your opinion, does Leo do the right thing by staying married? Would you do the same?

8. Both Chad and Leo are unfaithful to their wives, but only Leo is truthful about it. Do you think this makes Chad's infidelity a worse offense? Why or why not?

9. At two points in the novel, the group tries to rescue a friend: first Niles, then Trevor. But when Starla is in trouble, they don't attempt to save her. Why do you think this is? Has Starla become a “lost cause”?

10. At one point Leo remarks, “I had trouble with the whole concept [of love] because I never fully learned the art of loving myself.” How does the concept of self-love play into the novel?

11. In the moment before Leo attacks Trevor's captor, he recites a portion of “Horatio at the Bridge,” a poem about taking a lone stand against fearful odds. What is the significance of the verse? Do you think it's appropriate to that moment?

12. The twins are the novel's most abused characters and also the most creative. Do you think there is a connection between suffering and art?

13. What do you make of the smiley face symbol that Sheba and Trevor's father paints? How does the novel address the idea of happiness coexisting with pain?

14. At several points in the novel, characters divulge family secrets. Do you believe that this information should stay secret, or is there value in bringing it to light?

15. Leo examines his Catholicism at several points in the novel. What do you think he might say are the advantages and drawbacks of his religion? Do you think all religions are fraught with those problems?

16. One might interpret Leo's mother's attitude toward religion as one of blind faith. If Steven had admitted his abuse to her, do you think she would she have believed him? How do you think the information might have affected her?

17. Sheba and Trevor are literally tormented by their childhoods, in the form of their deranged father. How are some of the other characters hindered by the past? Are they ever able to escape its clutches and, if so, by what means?

18. Discuss the scene in which Leo and Molly rescue the porpoise. What does the event symbolize?

19. Why do you think the discoveries about Leo's mother and Monsignor Max begin and end the novel? What theme do these incidents convey?

20. Chapter one begins with the statement, “Nothing happens by accident,” and Leo often reflects on the way that destiny has shaped his life. How does destiny affect the other characters? Do you agree that real life is the result of predetermined forces? Or can we affect our fate.
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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