1. Luke Chandler is exposed to events that many adults have
never even seen. What is the effect of reading about these
circumstances-from a difficult childbirth to the possibility of
financial ruin-through the eyes of a seven-year-old narrator?
2. The Chandlers cannot afford some of the hallmarks of the1950s
American dream, such as a television set or a stylish-looking car.
Yet other aspects of that time period, such as the Korean War, make
an unmistakable impression on them. How does the Chandler household
measure up to your own memories or impressions of that era?
3. Several generations of women are presented in A PAINTED
HOUSE, including Gran, Luke's mother, and Tally. How do
contemporary women compare to those three characters?
4. Baseball is a central theme in the novel, providing Luke with
heroes, dreams, and a diversion from the exhaustion of picking
cotton. When the Arkansans challenge the Mexicans to a baseball
game, however, Luke sees a darker side to competition. In what way
does this scene foreshadow the conclusion of the novel?
5. How might the novel have been different if Luke's father or
mother had narrated it?
6. How does your opinion of Cowboy change throughout the novel?
What do you think attracts Tally to him? How did you react to his
final showdown with Hank?
7. Discuss the role of Ricky in A PAINTED HOUSE. Though we never
meet him directly, he does play a key part in the progress of the
plot. What is the effect of his absence, and the letter writing it
inspires? In what way does his experience differ from that of
8. What keeps Pappy from giving up on farming?
9. What role do the Methodist and Baptist churches play in the
Black Oak community? How well do religious teachings serve Luke
10. In what way is Black Oak a snapshot of the world at
11. Luke says that most members of his community are descended
from Scotch-Irish immigrants. What are some of the legacies of this
12. The weather is a powerful force in A PAINTED HOUSE; floods,
heat, hail, and tornadoes all add suspense to the novel. What is it
like for the Chandlers to live at the complete mercy of the
weather? How is their situation different from that of the cousins
who perform indoor industrial work up north? What are the costs and
benefits of relying on the natural world for your livelihood?
13. At the end of the novel, Luke and his parents become migrant
workers themselves, venturing off to a new part of the country
solely for employment opportunities. Twenty-first-century workers
are often asked to transfer to a new part of the globe in order to
further their careers. What is the best way to make decisions
between financial security and family or cultural ties?
14. Poverty is a highly relative concept in A PAINTED HOUSE.
Though they have no indoor plumbing and have perilously high debts,
the Chandlers nonetheless give generously to those in need. How do
you define "rich" and "poor"?
15. The Chandler house itself conveys a meaningful message. What
is the significance of the way in which it gets painted? Do you
believe that Pappy really does finish the job after Luke and his
family leave? What is the effect of that detail? What causes Luke
to set aside his dream of ordering a Cardinals jacket and instead
use his meager earnings to buy paint?
16. In terms of plot and writing style, are any elements of John
Grisham's legal thrillers evident in A PAINTED HOUSE?
17. Discuss your own coming-of-age story. What are your first
memories of home? Who were the first people you loved?
18. A PAINTED HOUSE ends with tantalizing possibilities.
Speculate about how Luke's life unfolds after his family leaves the