Saturday, March 29, 2014

April 2014: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (is anyone having difficulties getting their hands on a book?)

Meeting Details:  The plan is to meet at Danielle's house on Thursday, April 3rd at 7:30pm with discussion to begin at 8pm.    Reminder email will be sent out later next week
Discussion Questions:
*I have not finished reading the book. This questions may or may not change once I'm done :)
1.  Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why not?

2. Talk about how Bob, who at the age of four was held accountable for his father's death. To what degree has that childhood trauma shaped his subsequent life? The family never mentions the fatal accident. Why?

3. What about the personalities and life trajectories of the three siblings—and the differences between them? Start with Jim and Bob; then Bob and his twin sister, Susan. How do they feel about one another—and how do they treat each other? How do those relationships change by the end of the story?

4. What do you think of Helen? Are you sympathetic to her?

5. This novel is very much about place and sense of home. How do the physical manifestations of the sibling's homes, their houses or apartments, reflect their inner lives? How do the brothers view their Maine hometown...and how does Susan view New York City? How do the Somalis view Maine and their new (perhaps temporary) home in Shirley Falls.

6. How has Shirley Falls changed over the years since the three siblings grew up and the two brothers moved away? Is Shirley Falls typical of small-town America?

7. What prompts Zach to throw the pig's head into the mosque? He later explains his action as a "dumb joke." What do you think of Zach? Does a 19-year-old boy deserve to be arrested and charged with a Federal hate crime?

8. Discuss the relations between the locals and the Somali Muslim population living in Shirley Falls. How do the two populations view one another? What humiliations do the Muslims undergo at the hands of the native Mainers?

9. Zach finds an unlikely ally in Abdikarim. What is it about Zach that encourages the older man to feel sympathy for him? What are Abdikarim's own demons? Talk about the differences in the two worlds of Abkikarim: the colorful market of the Al Barakaat in Somalia and the drab greyness of the small town in Maine.

10. Talk about the way in which the prevailing political pressures shape legal strategy.

11. Why is Bob so hesitant to accept Jim's view of the accident?

12.  Would you recommend this book to anyone else?  Who?  Why?

* most of the questions from

Menu:  "Starved for Sweetness"

"While the Burgesses seemed to have no knowledge of, or interest in, food (there were meals of scrambled hamburger covered with an unmelted sheet of orange cheese, or a tuna casserole made with canned soup, or a chicken roasted without any spices, not even salt), Pam discovered that they loved baked goods, and so she made banana bread and sugar cookies, and sometimes Susan stood in the small kitchen and helped her, and whatever was baked was eaten hungrily, and this touched Pam as well - as though these kids had been starved all their lives for sweetness." p.107 

Banana bread - Stephanie

Sugar cookies - Trish

Pound Cake - Tessa

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf - Karen

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars - Melissa

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sherrie

Drinks - Danielle


Tell us what you think!