Historical fiction

The Dutch House

Author: 
Patchett, Ann

    "Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?" I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer."

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth.

His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled, by their stepmother, from the house where they grew up. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another.

It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together.

Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are.

Filled with suspense, you may read it quickly to find out what happens, but what happens to Danny and Maeve will stay with you for a very long time.

Discussion Guide: 

1. What are the many and varied details of the Dutch House—rooms, stairways, architectural specifics, furniture, windows and doors, etc.? What mood or personality does each space or element possess? What is the complex, overall effect? What might Danny mean when he says,"the house was the story" or that it was "impossible"?

2. What is the nature of the relationship between Maeve and Danny? What explains the longevity and power of their support and love for one another?

3. What is Cyril Conroy like? How might specific behaviors, routines, and decisions of his have influenced Maeve and Danny? Why was he "always more comfortable with his tenants than he was the people in his office or…in his house"? What was it about buildings that he loved so much?

4. What are Fluffy’s various, evolving roles in the Dutch House? What is her overall influence on Maeve and Danny?

5. What explains why Elna Conroy abandoned her children? In what ways might such a profounddecision be justified or not? Why, as Maeve argues, are men who leave their families oftenjudged less harshly?

6. What were the various effects of Elna Conroy leaving her husband and children? Was it preferable, as Maeve argues, to have spent some years with her and then lost her or, as Danny experienced, to never have known her? What are the particular emotional challenges of each experience?

7. What might be the significance of Maeve receiving a box of matches and instruction for how to light a fire from her mother on her eighth birthday?

8. When discussing Maeve’s diabetes, Danny suggests that, "the body had all sorts of means to deal with what it couldn’t understand." What does this mean? What is the relationship between physical health and emotional stress or trauma?

9. In what ways are Sandy and Jocelyn important to the various Conroys?

10. What are Maeve’s particular strengths and abilities? What are her priorities in life? What might explain her decision to stay at her unchallenging job or not pursue a committed romantic relationship or family of her own?

11. What forces—familial, social, cultural—might explain why the two males, Cyril and Danny, are in various ways "excused…from all responsibility" about the lives and struggles of the girls and women in the house?

12. What is the source of Andrea’s power? Why is she so bent on using it against the others—especially the women—in the house? What does she covet and care about?

13. What is significant about each of the portraits in the Dutch House?

14. Why do Maeve and Danny sit secretly in a car outside of the Dutch House many times throughout the years after they are exiled from it?

15. Consider the various literary allusions throughout the novel. What is suggested, for example, by Celeste reading Adrienne Rich’s Necessities of Life when Danny first meets her on a train or by Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping?

16. What were the "original disappointments" that Celeste felt about Danny? Why did her relationship with Maeve begin so well and become so acrimonious?

17. Despite completing medical school, why is Danny drawn so powerfully to the construction ,buying, and selling of buildings? What does he mean when he says he is "at home on a building site"?

18. What does it mean the Maeve and Danny "had made a fetish out of [their] misfortune, fallen in love with it"? What explains such powerful attachment to painful experiences and relationships? Why might Danny not want "to be dislodged from [his] suffering"?

19. Danny eventually realizes that "after years of living in response to the past, [he and Maeve] had somehow become miraculously unstuck." What does this mean? How did it happen? What explains the "insatiable appetite for the past" that Maeve and Fluffy shared? How does one determine when connections to the past are healthy or restrictive?

20. Later in life, sitting outside the Dutch House, Danny realizes that "the feeling of home" he was experiencing was due not to the house but "wholly and gratefully" to his sister Maeve. What defines and determines a feeling of home? What role does a house play or not?

21. What explains the very different responses Maeve and Danny have to their mother’s return?

22. What might it mean that, when confronted with an aged and enraged Andrea, Danny thinks he "had not been born with an imagination large enough to encompass this moment"? What’s the role of imagination in times of trauma or emotional difficulty? What is its relationship to compassion and empathy? When does imagination become unhealthy illusion?

23. After reuniting, Elna tells Maeve and Danny that when she left she "knew [they] were going to be fine." In what ways did they end up fine or not?

24. Finally, Danny realizes that "the rage [he] carried for [his] mother exhaled and died. There was no place for it anymore." What does this mean? What are other ways to process such anger and emotional pain?

25. What changes and transformations are suggested by May’s buying of the Dutch House? What might it imply that Danny walks with her through the darkness to enter it?
(Questions issued by publishers.)

The Water Dancer

Author: 
Coates, Ta-Nehisi

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power.

Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North.

Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved.

Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. Why do you think Coates uses terms like "Tasked" and "Quality" instead of "slaves" and "masters"? What do you think the novel gains from this altered language? 

2. Hiram says that the Tasked are "Blessed, for we do not bear the weight of pretending pure." How does Coates define morality in the novel? In what ways does Hiram’s notion of morality differ from that of the Quality, or even Corinne?

3. What do you make of Howell Walker’s apology? To what extent does Coates humanize Howell? Why do you think he does this?

4. What roles do the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood play in the novel? How does Hiram, and perhaps by extension, Coates, define family?

5. Sophia tells Hiram, "But what you must get, is that for me to be yours, I must never be yours." What is Coates saying about the particular struggles of black women in this novel? How does Hiram’s relationship with Sophia change over time to reflect this?

6. Characters like Corrine and Seth Conklin risk their lives to work for the Underground, while also allowing Hiram and some of its other members to come to harm for the greater good of the organization. What might Coates be trying to say about the relationship between white people and racial justice with these characters?

7. Discuss Harriet’s role in the story. Did you know immediately who she was? What impact does the inclusion of a historical figure have on the narrative?

8. What is the significance of water throughout the book? Why do you think Coates chooses it as the medium for Hiram’s power?

9. Coates is best known for his works of nonfiction; The Water Dancer is his first novel. Why do you think he chose to explore the themes of slavery and the Underground Railroad through fiction? What is gained when the book isn’t tethered to historical fact? What is lost?

10. American slavery and its effects are a well-trod subject in both history and literature. What does The Water Dancer add to our understanding of how enslaved people suffered? What does the noveladd to our understanding of the agency, resilience, and strength of enslaved people during that time?

11. How are the themes of The Water Dancer relevant to modern discussions of race, privilege, and power?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

This Tender Land

Author: 
Krueger, William Kent

1932
Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated.

It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds.

With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. Although Odie and Albert find themselves in a boarding school for Native American children, most of the Native children don’t actually speak in the story. The Native character whom readers get to know best is Mose, and he is mute and "speaks" only through sign language. Why do you think the author chose silence as a way of depicting the children at the school?

2. Trying to understand the nature of God is one of the many struggles for Odie during his experiences in the summer of 1932. Is Odie the only one struggling with this issue? What sense do you have concerning the way the other vagabonds feel about the nature of God? What about the people they meet on their travels? How does Odie’s relationship with God change over the course of his journey?

3. When Odie and Albert attempt to buy boots, the clerk is skeptical that Albert and Odie would be able to afford the $5 price tag. After Odie lies about getting the money from their father, a second clerk remarks, "If he got a job these days, he’s one of the lucky ones." This is Odie and Albert’s first experience of life outside of the Lincoln School. What sense of the current state of the world do you get from this encounter?

4. When Odie is working for Jack in his orchard, Jack explain his religious philosophy, saying, "God all penned up under a roof? I don’t think so." Where does Jack think God is really to be found? What is it in Odie’s experience that makes him disagree with Jack’s outlook?

5. After having escaped Jack, the vagabonds encounter a Native American man named Forrest. He appears friendly and shares a meal with them, but he’s also aware that there is a $500 reward for their capture—a huge amount of money at the time. The children are unsure whether to trust him or not. What would you do in their situation?

6. Tent revivals—places where Christians would gather to hear religious leaders speak—were common in the Great Depression, often traveling across the country from town to town. They offered hope to people in desperate times, as Sister Eve does to Odie, Albert, Emmy, and Mose. However, Albert is skeptical of Sister Eve’s healings, calling her a con. What do you believe about Sister Eve’s ability to heal? What is the con that Albert is warning Odie about?

7. Why does Odie trust Sister Eve so wholeheartedly, but not her partner, Sid? Do you think he’s right to draw the conclusions he does about Sid from their interactions? How do some of Odie’s misjudgments lead to disastrous consequences? In your opinion, is what happens to Albert in some way Odie’s fault?

8. When the vagabonds encounter the skeleton of a Native American boy, Albert says there’s nothing they can do, but Mose reacts very differently. Later, he wanders off from the group to learn about the Dakota Conflict of 1862, which resulted in the execution of thirty-eight Sioux and the deaths of hundreds more. How does knowledge of this history change how Mose perceives himself? What impact does hearing this story have on Odie? On you?

9. Hoovervilles (named for President Herbert Hoover) were shantytowns that sprang up all across America during the Great Depression for homeless individuals and families. In difficult times like this, how do people like the Schofields survive? Is there an expectation that the government will help them, or do they look to other sources for assistance? How do the residents of this particular Hooverville pull together? How are they driven apart?

10. The Flats is like no other place the vagabonds have been on their journey. What makes it so unusual? When John Kelly is stopped by a policeman, why does he feel he has to say he is from a different part of town? Despite making a new friend, why is Odie so unhappy during the time he spends there?

11. When Odie is on his own, riding the rails, trying to get to St. Louis, he comes face to face with danger and violence. Do you think he was foolish for striking out alone? How was this encounter different from the things he experienced at Lincoln School?

12. Odie is a born storyteller even at his young age. Throughout the book he tells Albert, Emmy, and Mose tales about an imp, a princess, and the vagabonds. What purpose do these stories serve in the novel?

13. Sister Eve says to Odie that the only prayer she knows will absolutely be answered is a prayer for forgiveness. What do you think she means by this? Who are the people whom Odie needs to forgive, and for what reasons?

14. Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy are all searching for peace and a place to call home. What do you think each character is looking for and what are their different definitions of home? In the end, do they all find what they are looking for, and if so how?

15. The author has said that he drew inspiration from the works of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Homer. Do you find elements of works by those authors in This Tender Land? Why or why not? Are there other authors whose work this story calls to mind?

16. In the story, Odie speaks of the journey he and the other are on as an odyssey. Do you see echoes of Homer’s epic poem in the children’s experiences? If so, can you identify Homer’s poetic counterpart for each section of the story?
(Discussion Questions issued by the publisher.)

The Book of Lost Names

Author: 
Harmel, Kristin

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby.

She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago.

The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral-und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code.

But researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland.

But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are.

The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. On page 16, Mamusia tells Eva, "If we shrink from them, if we lose our goodness, we let them erase us. We cannot do that, Eva. We cannot.” Compare her stance here with how she behaves in Aurignon, after Tatuś is taken by the Germans. How does her outlook change? Rereading this and knowing that Mamusia felt this way before tragedy struck, how do your opinions of her and her reaction to Eva’s work as a forger change? Do you believe Joseph when he tells Eva that Mamusia said she was proud of the work Eva did to help keep children from being erased?

2. The beginning of Eva’s nightmare falls on the night her father is taken away and she is forced to watch it happen in silence. Do you think she did the right thing by keeping quiet, or should she have done more to try to save him? What do you think you would have done in this situation? What did Eva’s decision reveal about her character and what she might accomplish later in the novel?

3. Eva has to risk her and her mother’s safety on numerous occasions by trusting others. Discuss the many characters Eva and Mamusia trusted to keep their secrets. Was any of this trust misplaced? Were there any red flags about those they should not have trusted?

What does the selflessness present in so many in Aurignon say about the promise of the human capacity for goodness in times of crisis?

4. On page 117, Eva watches officers walking around unbothered in Drancy and thinks to herself, "Could they all be that evil? Or had they discovered a switch within themselves that allowed them to turn off their civility? Did they go home to their wives at night and simply flip the switches back on, become human once more?” What do you think of her questions? In wartime, do you think those who don’t fight for what is right are evil? Do you think they can become immune to atrocities? Discuss.

5. Eva and her mother react very differently to the news that Tatuś had been sent to Auschwitz. What do their reactions reveal about them as characters? Do you think there is a right way or a wrong way to react to such news? Why? Which reaction do you think would be most beneficial in helping someone get through a war?

6. On page 165, Eva says, "I’ve always thought that it’s those children—the ones who realize that books are magic—who will have the brightest lives.” How did Eva’s love of books help her throughout different points in the story? Discuss with your group your favorite books as children. When did you first realize the power of books? What book made you fall in love with reading? Do you think your life would be different if you hadn’t found the joy of reading?

7. On page 166, Eva thinks to herself, "Parents make all sorts of errors, because our ability to raise our children is always colored by the lives we’ve lived before they came along.” How do you think Eva’s past affected the way she raised her son? How do you think children of Jewish parents who survived World War II are affected by their parents’ pasts? Do you think it’s possible for their parents’ trauma and/or resilience to be passed down to them?

8. Mamusia feels as if Eva is abandoning her. She also tells Eva that she is being brainwashed and has forgotten who she is as she erases Jewish children’s names and attends masses. Do you think Mamusia is justified in feeling betrayed by Eva? Did you feel sympathetic toward Mamusia as she was left behind in Madame Barbier’s boardinghouse, or did you grow irritated by her inability to understand Eva’s drive to help others? Who or what do you believe is responsible for the growing hostility in their relationship?

9. On page 204, Pere Clement says, "The path of life is darkest when we choose to walk it alone.” Do you agree that this statement is true in all situations? Discuss the moments in the novel when Eva decides to go it alone and compare them to the moments when she trusts others with her secrets, her wants, and her fears. Do you think the moments she decided to work alone would have been easier if she had a partner, or do you think that would have only increased her stress? What about the moments she opened up to others—would she have been better off keeping to herself?

10. Were you surprised to find out that Joseph was the one who betrayed the forgery network? Were there any red flags? Why do you think the author decided Joseph would be the traitor? What would you have done in Joseph’s position?

11. Was moving on and trying to forget Remy the right decision for Eva, or do you believe that she should have waited even longer to make sure that Remy hadn’t survived? Discuss with your group the pros and cons of each choice. Did Tatus give Eva sound advice in telling her to start living her own life? Would you have moved to the United States with Louis even if you knew you would never love him like you did Rémy?

12. Eva believed that Remy went to his grave not knowing how she felt about him because she told him she couldn’t marry him. Do you think Remy ever thought that Eva had given up on him when he waited for her on the library steps and she never showed? If they had ended up finding each other before they both moved on to live separate lives, do you think they would have made it as a couple? Why or why not?

13. On page 370, Eva says, "We aren’t defined by the names we carry or the religion we practice, or the nation whose flag flies over our heads. I know that now. We’re defined by who we are in our hearts, who we choose to be on this earth.” How would you define the main characters in the book? Do their religions or countries play into who they are as people? Do you think they can truly be separated from their backgrounds and judged only by what is in their hearts and what they choose to do?

14. Why do you think Eva kept her past from her son? Do you think she was embarrassed or still felt guilty about anything? Do you think it was a coping mechanism and a way for her to move on? Discuss with your group.

15. In her author’s note, on page 384, Kristin Harmel says, "You don’t need money or weapons or a big platform to change the world. Sometimes, something as simple as a pen and a bit of imagination can alter the course of history.” Discuss this as a group and share with your book club those people—either famous or not—who you believe best exemplify this sentiment.
(Questions issued by the pubisher.)

Unsheltered

Author: 
Kingsolver, Barbara

A timely novel that interweaves past and present to explore the human capacity for resiliency and compassion in times of great upheaval.

Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family.

Which is why it’s so unnerving that she’s arrived at middle age with nothing to show for her hard work and dedication but a stack of unpaid bills and an inherited brick home in Vineland, New Jersey, that is literally falling apart.

The magazine where she worked has folded, and the college where her husband had tenure has closed. The dilapidated house is also home to her ailing and cantankerous Greek father-in-law and her two grown children: her stubborn, free-spirited daughter, Tig, and her dutiful debt-ridden, ivy educated son, Zeke, who has arrived with his unplanned baby in the wake of a life-shattering development.

In an act of desperation, Willa begins to investigate the history of her home, hoping that the local historical preservation society might take an interest and provide funding for its direly needed repairs.

Through her research into Vineland’s past and its creation as a Utopian community, she discovers a kindred spirit from the 1880s, Thatcher Greenwood.

A science teacher with a lifelong passion for honest investigation, Thatcher finds himself under siege in his community for telling the truth: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting new theory recently published by Charles Darwin. Thatcher’s friendships with a brilliant woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor draw him into a vendetta with the town’s most powerful men.

At home, his new wife and status-conscious mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his financial worries and the news that their elegant house is structurally unsound.

Brilliantly executed and compulsively readable, Unsheltered is the story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum, as they navigate the challenges of surviving a world in the throes of major cultural shifts.

In this mesmerizing story told in alternating chapters, Willa and Thatcher come to realize that though the future is uncertain, even unnerving, shelter can be found in the bonds of kindred—whether family or friends—and in the strength of the human spirit. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. What do the living spaces in their various conditions throughout the novel suggest about the people living in them? Figuratively speaking, which foundations turn out to be solid, or precarious?

2. Mary Treat tells Thatcher that to be unsheltered is to live in daylight. What does she mean? What kinds of shelter do these characters crave, in their different centuries? How might sheltered lives—or the craving for them—become a hindrance?

3. Which of the many challenges confronting Willa are hers alone to bear, and why? What do you see as the foundation of her successful relationship with Iano? How has marriage changed, or not changed, since the time of Rose and Thatcher?

4. Why do you think happy marriages so rarely appear in fiction?

5. In what ways, if any, do you find Nick’s bigotry and anger comprehensible? What accounts for Tig’s patience with him, despite their differences? How do the family’s conflicts relate to the polarization of present times? What’s suggested by Willa’s and Nick’s argument taking place on the Walt Whitman Bridge?

6. How are Mary Treat’s eccentricities related to her strengths? In what ways is her friendship especially valuable to Thatcher? What is the role of the scientist in times of social upheaval?

7. What are some of the"old mythologies" discussed by Mary and Thatcher, to which people cling for comfort even when they’re no longer true? Are any of these still popular in the modern era?

8. Mary tells Thatcher she is "astonished at how little most people can manage to see." Specifically, which realities in her century, and ours, do people find it difficult to see? What are the costs? Is it possible to view ourselves objectively in our own time?

9. When Thatcher sees the world "divided in two camps, the investigators and the sweeteners," what is he observing? Which of the novel’s characters are the former, and which are the latter? Where would you place yourself?

10. Consider the creative names and botanical character identities throughout the novel. What do they reveal? How have the various characters’ education or backgrounds shaped their perspectives? Why do you think a select few of them are able to think outside of what Tig calls "the cardboard box," or Mary, "the pumpkin shell?"

11. What family dynamics might have made Tig and Zeke so different and combative, while Jorge and his siblings are close and supportive?

12. How do the characters in two centuries variously understand and connect with the natural world? When Willa’s phone causes "thousands of birds [to burst] from their tree skyward like a house going up in smoke," what does this potent image suggest? What about the ants that seem to inhabit the neighborhood outside the boundaries of time?

13. When Willa complains that "the rules don’t apply anymore," what does she mean? How are Zeke and Tig preparing differently for a future in which they will have less than their parents? Did the novel move you to any new insights about generational difference?

14. How does the powerful experience of loss affect this novel’s characters, at personal and societal levels? Is the nature of grief constant across human experience? How might "the loss of what they know" influence people’s political behavior?

15. The novel’s epigraph quotes a Wallace Stevens poem,"The Well Dressed Man with a Beard." How does the epigraph relate to the novel, and how might Christopher Hawk (a well-dressed man with a beard) serve as its pivot point? Why do you think the author chose to set the story in two different centuries? And why these two in particular?

16. In shifting between chapters, what changes did you notice in the characters’ language, or the narrative tone? In what ways did you find the two separate narratives connected?

17. What is the "precise balance of terror and mollycoddling" that Charles Landis manages? How, when, and why do you think people respond to this leadership style?

18. The shooting of Uri Carruth by Charles Landis, and subsequent not-guilty verdict, are actual historical events. Is the anecdote relevant to the  present? What is the role of journalism in a healthy society? Who is responsible for its integrity?

19. As they shift from parent-child to a more adult relationship, what does Willa learn from her daughter? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?" How does this relate to the lost-and-found quote about happiness from Willa Cather’s My Àntonia?

20. Thatcher settles finally on seeing Mary Treat as "a giant redwood: oldest and youngest of all living things, the tree that stood past one eon into the next." Do you agree?
(Questions issued by HarperCollins.)

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