Here on Earth
Reading Group Discussion Questions
- In the beginning of Here on Earth, March remembers that, as a girl, "she believed that all you wanted, you would eventually receive, and that fate was a force that worked with, not against you." (p.7) What does March learn about fate as an adult? Do you believe that what happens to her is a matter of fate, or of something else? Do you find her a sympathetic character? Why, or why not?
- Many book reviewers have commented on the striking parallels between Here on Earth and Wuthering Heights; Alice Hoffman herself has called her novel her "homage to Emily Brontë." Why do you think the character Heathcliff resonates so strongly as a part of our culture? And why is he considered the archetype of the passionate hero, despite the latter part of Brontë's novel when he behaves vengefully and abusively?
- Compare and contrast the main characters and plot lines of both novels. How would Wuthering Heights have been a different story if Catherine had remained, like March in Here on Earth, a living presence throughout the novel? What would Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship have been like if Catherine had survived and they were able to live their relationship "here on earth?" Do you think Hollis is the essence of the romantic hero, or do you consider him a monster, the epitome of the satanic hero? Do you notice a difference in the answer to this question based on the ages of people in your reading group? How do our beliefs about the nature of true love change as we grow older?
- Alice Hoffman's novel portrays love "here on earth" as something very complicated and mysterious. Is it right to judge other people's relationships from the outside, since people's personal histories and emotions are, by their very nature, complex and subjective? What is it about the power of erotic love that makes it so uncomfortable for us to view from the outside? Do we tend to judge women more harshly than men for what we perceive as mistakes made under the influence of erotic love? If so, why?
- As the novel opens, March is concerned about Gwen and the choices she is making regarding boyfriends, drugs, schoolwork and lifestyle in general. Even though March remembers that "simple logic doesn't work" (p. 9) when it comes to reasoning with a 15-year-old girl, she is unable to influence her daughter's behavior. As the novel progresses, how does the relationship between March and Gwen shift? Does Gwen continue to want "the opposite of what her mother has"? (p.214– 215) Which of them is more effective in the role of "mother"? Do you think March and Gwen will be able to enjoy a healthy relationship at the novel's conclusion?
- Do you agree with Hollis that "the past can only hurt you if you let it"? (p. 29) Or do you believe, like March, that "unfinished business always comes back to haunt you?" (p. 123) In your opinion, is Hollis' behavior motivated primarily by love for March or by something else? If something else, what? What explains March's willingness to be controlled by Hollis? Do you have sympathy for him because of his traumatic background? Why, or why not?