Reading Questions for The Hole We're In
14. Patsy spends time at the Slickmart poking holes in water bottles. She also finds "a tiny hole you could peek through and view the store from above" (p. 184). Why does the stain on the ceiling affect George so deeply? Patsy tells the Sheriff that she didn't know what she had been thinking when she tried to save the Jesus stain. What do you think Patsy was thinking?
15. Part III takes place in the near future. How does George handle the news of her cancer diagnosis? Have her coping skills changed?
16. Consider the following quote: "'At some point, Vincent, we have to overcome the disaster of our parentage'" (p. 233). Have any of the Pomeroy siblings overcome this family "disaster"? Discuss Tolstoy's famous line from War and Peace, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," as it relates to the Pomeroy family.
17. "'So, what is it George? Why do they hate us so much? Because it's not just Vinnie. It's Patsy, too! I've prayed over it, and I've asked God, and I just don't understand'" (p. 247). What accounts for Roger's blind spot? Is George any more enlightened? By the end of the book, which parent did you feel more sympathy for?
18. Patsy decides to sacrifice her hard earned money in order to protect her daughter at the clinic. Though she never learns of her own mother's betrayal (which led to Patsy's expulsion years before), how might there be poetic justice in her actions here? What kind of a parent does Patsy turn out to be?
19. As Patsy is watching her father's burial, "it occurs to her that she has spent most of her life digging herself out of or into one hole or another. And then in the end, they just lower you into the ground anyway. She whispers a question, kind of like a prayer, if she were the praying sort, to no one in particular, 'How in the world do you ever get out?'" Does Patsy succeed in escaping from the hole? Will Patsy's daughter escape the hole?
20. Britney Spears's song "...Baby One More Time" is used as the novel's epigraph. Where else does the song appear, and how does it resonate throughout the story?
21. References and allusions to holes appear throughout the novel. What is the author implying, and what do you make of the significance of the title? What ultimately is "the hole we're in"?
22. The title could almost serve as a headline for the state of the entire country today—in what sense do forces beyond the Pomeroys' control (credit card laws, terrorism, politics, etc.) contribute to their struggle? Did this book make you feel better or worse about your own circumstances and choices?
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