Reading Questions for Some Things That Meant the World to Me
1. The narrator of Some Things that Meant the World to Me has a post-traumatic stress disorder called depersonalization. As a reader, how does this affect your relationship with him? Do you empathize or feel from him in a different way knowing that he's survived trauma?
2. Early in the novel, Rhonda's inner-child appears as a "real" character (at least real from Rhonda's perspective). What role is little-Rhonda playing in the story? Does he appear to help Rhonda?
3. Certain chapters of the book are called "Tell Me" or "Tell Me More". They consist of conversations between Rhonda and Dr. Angel-Hair in a mental hospital. These sections have a different mood to them. How did they enhance and inform your understanding of the story?
4. Rhonda's childhood home is literally a broken home, its rooms drifting away from one another like the separating continents. Why did the author decide to bring a broken home to life from the narrator's perspective? How does the surreal nature of this detail enhance the reading experience?
5. The book alternates between chapters set in 2007 San Francisco and vignettes from Rhonda's childhood in Phoenix, Arizona. Did you enjoy the spliced structure? How did the moments illustrated in the past inform your understanding of Rhonda's current situation?
6. There's a magic Dumpster in the novel, in which Rhonda can travel through a trapdoor in its bottom—often rooting through heaps of trash—and this acts as a portal into his personal history. Why are certain memories accessed through the magic Dumpster, while others are dramatized in chapters?
7. Rhonda's mother and her boyfriend Letch are characters that only exist in the sections from the past, yet their presence permeates the entire story. How would you characterize their influence?
8. In the chapter "Home", Rhonda travels to confront his past by revisiting his childhood home in Arizona. But the house is no longer there, and a Home Depot sits on the land. What does this sequence say about the nature of closure? Why did the author make closure a seeming impossibility?
9. The reader never learns Rhonda's real name. Do you have a sense why the author kept this information from the reader? Why would the narrator refer to himself as Rhonda once he's an adult?
10. In the book's final chapter "The Strongest God in the Solar System", little-Rhonda travels back inside Rhonda via a tattoo of a Rorschach inkblot across his chest. Symbolically, what does this image mean to you? How is the inner-child moving back into Rhonda's body emblematic of some larger meaning?
11. The last image in the novel is of trick candles on Rhonda's birthday cake. He blows them out; some flare back up; he blows again; some come back to life. What's this image saying about the nature of memory? Has Rhonda been trying to put out the fires of his past throughout the entire story? Is Rhonda's version of healing predicated upon extinguishing the past's ghosts?
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