9. What drives Mathilda's compulsion to save strands of hair? Discuss other instances of her magical thinking. How do these thoughts serve her? Are they helpful or debilitating?

10. An award-winning playwright, Victor Lodato makes his debut as a novelist with Mathilda Savitch . Does it affect your reading to know that a man created Mathilda's voice? Can you think of other instances where a male writer convincingly renders a female interior life?

11. Try to see the adults in this novel—including parents, teachers, and the Tree— apart from Mathilda's views and judgments. Are they doing the best they can? Do you think Mathilda misunderstands, at times, their behavior and intentions?

12. Discuss Mathilda's feelings of responsibility in regard to her sister's death. How much does self-blame drive her actions?

13. How did your image of Helene change throughout the novel? Why does Mathilda have such mixed feelings in regard to her sister? Do you think her version of Helene's life is a fantasy, or did she know her sister better than anyone else in the family did?

14. What do you think Mathilda is looking for when she decides to go to Desmond? How is she different when she returns?

15. Why doesn't Mathilda tell Louis the truth? What is she trying to accomplish in her last moments with him? Why doesn't she tell her parents what she uncovered about Helene?

16. Discuss the backdrop of terrorism running throughout the novel. How does it affect Mathilda's perception of the world? How does it shape the emotional state of a new generation of teenagers?

17. How does dark comedy enhance Mathilda's storytelling? What passages made you laugh out loud (even if laughter seemed inappropriate)?

18. Discuss the final scene between Ma and Mathilda. What common ground do they share? Why are they silent when they are reunited? What do they communicate to each other without words?

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