1. In the first chapter, "A June and Six Septembers," we meet Roger Pomeroy, a forty-two-year-old assistant principal at a Christian high school. How does his decision to go back to school for a PhD influence all that follows? What does this choice reveal about him as a husband and a father?
2. What is the significance of the months as chapter names in Part I, The Red House?
3. In the second chapter, "October," Roger's wife, George, observes that "middle-class folks were forced to go nuts in their living rooms; the rich got to do it at spas" (p. 17). Is this just an amusing contemplation or does it suggest something significant about George? How does George cope with the escalating preparations for Helen's wedding and the house painting debacle? At this point in the book, would you say that George is depressed?
4. When we first meet her as a high school cheerleader, Patsy, George and Roger's youngest daughter, is a "little blonde about to crash into the gravel" (p. 30). What are the actual consequences of this moment, and how does this line resonate figuratively later on?
5. In chapter three, "November," Helen Pomeroy, Patsy's older sister, is introduced: "This bottomless wanting had started from her first breath..." (p. 39). Would you describe Helen as a selfish person? A materialistic one? Is Helen more like Roger or George? What, if any, is the extent of Helen's responsibility for what happens to Patsy, Vincent, and even George?
6. In "January," the fifth chapter, we learn a bit about Vincent, who is a graduate film student at NYU. What is his place within the Pomeroy family? How would you say his sufferings compare with Patsy's?
7. In "February," Roger accompanies his PhD advisor, Carolyn Murray, to New York. Why does Carolyn choose Roger, and what are the dynamics of their relationship? Do you think that Roger has been tricked by Carolyn?
8. Why doesn't George accept the job promotion even though it potentially afforded "the power to start digging them out of the hole they were all in? It seemed like too much to even dream of" (p. 68).
9. After Patsy is sent to her grandmother's house in Tennessee, she "prayed and reflected and what she'd come to was this: people did what they could live with; all sin was relative" (p. 100). Discuss Patsy's viewpoint. Would the other members of her family agree with this statement?
10. "Like Patsy, Roger had spent most of the summer in prayer, though his prayers were a bit more adamant and significantly more specific than hers" (p. 106). Does God provide answers to Roger? Where does this leave the rest of his family at the end of Part I? Which of the characters would you describe as religious? Why or why not? Does money or religion play more of a motivating role in this book? Explain.
11. Part II begins six years later with Patsy's return from Iraq. Discuss the episode in the airport where Patsy's sand globe is confiscated by airport security. Other than the sand globe, what other things has Patsy missed and/or lost in the last six years? Does Patsy at age twenty-three seem older or younger than her years?
12. Why is there a hole in Patsy's backyard? Compare Magnum French with Patsy's father, Roger Pomeroy. Would you say that Magnum is a better man than Roger?More discussion questions