1. What were your first impressions of Irma, at the opening of
the novel? Did they change as the book progressed and you got to
know her character?
2. Talk about what Mennonite life is like for Irma and her
brothers and sisters, growing up under their father's strict
religious rule, in their isolated community. What is life like for
3. Late in the book, Irma allows herself to remember what really
happened to her older sister Katie, and tells Aggie the horrible
truth. Do you think Irma will be able to leave her feelings of
4. Wilson tells Irma that art has the power to save us. Irma's
father tells her that art is a lie. Discuss the role of art in the
novel, and how it relates to life. Why does Aggie react so strongly
to the Diego Rivera mural in the National Palace?
5. Diego gives Irma a blank journal so she can keep notes during
the shoot, so she can sort out what's going on and keep track of
her questions, but she ends up using it for so much more. What does
the notebook become for Irma?
6. Discuss Jorge and Irma's relationship. Why did Jorge leave
Irma? Do you think they were ever happy, living on the farm? Does
Irma really love Jorge?
7. At the end of the novel, Irma returns home to visit her
parents and brothers. What do you think their reaction will be? Do
you think her father is capable of forgiveness?
8. In the words of Wilson, "Our dreams are a thin curtain
between survival and extinction." What does that mean to him, and
for anyone? Discuss the importance of dreams in the novel,
including Irma's dreams of - or hopes for - the future.
9. What does meeting the film crew mean for Irma? Discuss Irma's
relationships with Marijke, Diego and Wilson, and why each of them
is important to her.
10. Talk about the cab ride the girls take to the beach in
Acapulco in between their flights, and the relationship they form
with their driver, Gustavo.
11. How does meeting Noehmi and the other student protesters
affect Aggie and Irma?
12. At the end of the book, Irma changes the words of the
heading in her notebook from Diego's "You have to be prepared to
die" to "You have to be prepared to live." And then plays around
with it more, too. What does this shift in perspective mean for
Irma? Could this idea apply to anyone who has lived through
13. What does the future hold for Irma and her two sisters?