SOMEDAY IT WILL BE DECEMBER
- At first, Claire is ambivalent about her pregnancy. What events in her past and current situation contribute to her uncertainty?
- The story focuses on some of Claire’s memories. Why does the recalling of her parents’ deaths and then the discovery of the Polaroid finally allow her to shed her fears and accept her pregnancy?
- Does the image of the father lifting his child satisfactorily end the story?
FACTS OF LIFE
- Though the old phrase, facts of life, usually refers to teaching a child or anyone about sex, what else are Anne and Cara learning in this story?
- In your opinion, is Anne making the right decisions as a single mother, when she works a train ride away from her child, expects that child to do chores, get good grades and contribute to the flow of their lives?
- What is the significance of the reference to bathing—first when Anne remembers taking a bath with her brother, and then a similar reference at the very end of the story.
- How does Anne handle Mark’s rather insistent presence in her life?
- Show how the author threads Tess’s fears throughout the story. And considering the answers to the preceding question, are these normal fears or is Tess teetering on the edge?
- After the accident, are the reactions of Adam and Tess totally surprising or consistent with the pattern of their parenting?
- What role does the older daughter, Karen, play in this family story that focuses on the younger, more forward Sara?
- As the parents drive back to the hospital, they review the day’s events and try to understand them—have they missed something?
- In the final scenes, what does Tess’s thoughts about the endless, endless sky and the words that her children call out to her have in common?
- Karen is the narrator of this story. What is her occupation and how might that help her deal with and live through this situation that has struck her sister’s family?
- Why does the author wait until the second to the last paragraph to let the reader know what happened to Jessy? Was the revelation a surprise?
- In this story, the author uses sounds and voices to create a haunting thread that moves through the narrative. What are they and how did you react to them?
ON THE CUSP
- This lighter tale focuses on follow-through. When do we get a hint that it’s not only Carrie who might be avoiding some responsibility?
- In your opinion, who is running the show in this family—Kate or Carrie?
- In the scene when Kate and Carrie realize that it’s dress-up day, would you have handled the situation differently?
- When does the reader begin to see that this is not an ordinary community? Is there a particular period of time affixed to this story or does it even matter?
- The story’s title originally had this added phrase: A Pied Piper Story. What is the basic framework for that old tale? What clues does the author drop into the story to show us that’s where we are?
- What role does Liz Grimm play in the story?
- Evaluate Angela and how she handles the upcoming birthday celebration for her son. Why does she allow it to happen? What clues does she miss? Do you see her as a feckless character or one who will change and try to contribute positive things to society?
- The author built this story around the following lines: Rachel still grieved, thinking about that moment—Heather’s face quivering, tears moving down her cheeks, the adults having broken through the barrier, crashed into that perfect place she thought she inhabited.
- What responsibilities do parents have to their children when divorce alters the picture?
- Does Heather seem to be handling the situation well?
- Who is suffering the most in this glimpse of a major change in a family—Mrs. Oates, Rachel or Heather?
- At the end of the story, what might be the reasons Rachel wants to hold her face in the towel for as long as she needs to?
- In this very short story, the reader gets a glimpse into the dynamic of a family. In your opinion, does Kate do too much? Should she not be on a ladder washing windows?
- Why does Kate come to the conclusion that Brinn does have her period, yet doesn’t need to mention it to Kate—ever again.
- As readers, do we know enough to evaluate Kate’s marriage? Why or why not.
- Explore the dynamic of Kate’s relationship with her mother now and the story of her mother on the ladder. Have things changed? If so, why?
- Will Kate continue to wash windows and avoid playing cards? Is she content with what she sees in her life right now?
SONG FOR HER MOTHER
- How did the scene of Jolene’s brief visit to see her only child affect you?
- Was Ana right to force Jolene to leave right away, not wanting her friends so fragile to meet such a mother?
- What is the author’s purpose in placing Ana in: A place deep in a wood where the trees arched overhead to form a cathedral-like space, and underneath, a pocket of peace, a place shot through with golden light. What does Ana learn while in this space? How does that affect the ending of the story?
- What is the author alluding to with bread on the table in Jolene’s hospital room and later the scattered petals from the magnolia trees which Ana lifts to her mouth to taste?
- Will Ana ever experience a release from hunger?
YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG
1. Why do you think Sunny screams You have done nothing wrong when seeing her daughter, Colette, unconscious on the greenhouse floor? Is Sunny culpable in this suicide attempt?
- While an ER team works to save Colette, Sunny is off alone. The author shows us the things Sunny works to focus on. What are these things and do they tell us anything about Sunny, her family, Colette?
- Discuss what Colette has been doing sexually. Relate that to Sunny’s past and the fact that Hunter has cheated on her. Can a mother truly help and understand her daughter when her past and present sex life is perilous at best?
- What role does Marilyn, the grandmother, play in this story and why is her presence important and at the same time surprising?
- Why does the author use a meeting with an old school friend as the pivotal point in this story? Does it work?
- Who has a more realistic hold on life—Veda or Emily? Give examples.
- Why does Emily want to rake leaves in the rain?
- When she refuses Kent’s offer to travel for a theater date, is she being a wimp or is this refusal more indicative of who Emily really is—even though she plays fantasy games.
- Consider the two scenes in this very short story—the one when Hazel is 70 and the one when she is a pregnant teenager. Then discuss what the title of the story really means.
WHEN DID MY MOTHER DIE?
- What is the purpose of the reoccurring phrase But you’re so fortunate to still have her.
- Does Ruth approve of her mother’s decision to stay in Chicago?
- Is Ruth a good daughter—why or why not?
- Is there more than one reason that causes Ruth to weep at the very end of the story?
- If you have an aging relative, would this story help or hinder the decisions you might make about the care of that person?