1. In the opening pages of the novel, Alice says about her
situation, "Now, in my more charitable moods, I wonder if our
hardworking community members punished us for something as
intangible as whimsy. We would not have felt eccentric in a
northern city, but in Prairie Center we were perhaps outside the
bounds of the collective imagination." (p. 4) How does the idea of
alienation figure into the novel? Why do Dan and Theresa belong to
Prairie Center? Does Howard belong? Feeling that she doesn''t
belong, could Alice have done anything to make herself less
vulnerable to public censure?
2. Compare the different ways the characters grieve: Are there
parallels in the husbandwife relationships within the
couples--Alice and Howard, Theresa and Dan--and how each spouse
expresses, or fails to express, his or her own grief? Do the
characters'' respective genders play a role in the way they deal
with grief? What role does grief play in Howard''s relationship
3. What is the function of Howard''s narration? Does his
perspective change your feelings about Alice and what happens to
her? Is it clear why he doubts her?
4. Does Alice''s sense of her own inadequacy contribute to how
she is viewed by the people of Prairie Center? Does it contribute
to Howard''s feelings towards her?
5. At the outset of the novel, Alice says, "I had always
suspected that Howard was able to slip into a phone booth, shed his
rubber overalls right down to a blue body suit, and then take off
into the sky, scooping up the children with one strong arm.... He
has always been capable." (p. 9) What are some of Howard and
Alice''s respective strengths and weaknesses? Is either one
stronger than the other in any way?
6. At the point of the novel when Alice is arrested, she is
still completely overwhelmed and incapacitated by Lizzy''s death
and her role in it. How do the accusations against Alice and her
time in prison change her and help her to deal with what happened
7. What is revealed about Alice through her interaction with
other prisoners? Does her sense of belonging shift while in prison?
What new perspectives does she gain?
8. While in the jail hospital, Alice reflects on her marriage,
"Lying in the hospital bed I thought to myself that my passion for
Howard had soon been replaced by something that was stronger than
respect, or habit, or maybe even need.... "I wasn''t certain the
group of feelings wouldn''t cancel each other out, if any of them
could possibly be powerful enough to carry me along by his side,
shoulder to shoulder." (p. 298) What binds Alice and Howard? Do the
events of the novel change the essence of those ties?