Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
1. Union Atlantic has two main story lines. One is about a conflict over a piece of land between two neighbors, Charlotte Graves, a retired history teacher, and Doug Fanning, a young banker; the other is about the financial troubles at the bank where Doug works. How did these two events come together to shape the novel?
2. Which of these four main characters, Doug, Charlotte, Henry and/or Nate do you identify with the most?
3. Doug Fanning, who we first meet as a young sailor on a navy ship in the Persian Gulf back in 1988, and who goes on to a career in finance, is in many ways the most charged and conflicted character in the book. Some readers might see him as an indictment of the greed and moral bankruptcy that characterized the first decade of the 21st century. What do you think of Doug's complex character?
4. Charlotte's mental deterioration is both heartbreaking and chilling. She's such a proud woman, with such zeal, but her thoughts are turning against her. How does the role of her two dogs, Sam and Wilkie, play in this unraveling?
5. Discuss the nature of Doug and Nate's relationship. What insecurities and/or vulnerabilities do they take out on each other?
6. What does the feud over land between Doug and Charlotte represent?
7. The novel takes place during the lead up to the Iraq War and it involves a bank that has taken excessive risk, thus endangering the whole financial system. These two issues, war and finance, have dominated much of the country's attention in the last decade. How have these issues affected your own life?
8. Doug chooses in the end to return to his beginning. Meaning that he begins and ends the novel as a soldier fighting the war in the Middle East. Why do you think Adam Haslett chose to bookend his novel with this war?
9. Union Atlantic paints a pretty bleak picture of our culture today. How do you predict the next decade will compare to the present?
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From the February 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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