Questions & Answers

1.     What are your thoughts on Bruno. 

I think Bruno by all accounts is a good man.  He is almost the stereotypical “Swiss” husband.  He is cool and aloof with his family but is a good father and good provider.  Has he always been this way?  I think when we read about Anna and Bruno’s courtship we can see this is the man he will be, moving to Switzerland or not.  When he proposes to Anna he says, “I think you would make a good wife for me.”  No sugar coating for him.  Bruno sees things in black and white.  Also, Bruno knows all about his wife…he knows.  He still chooses to love and accept her.  Should he have slammed her head, no!  However Anna also admits to kicking the proverbial angry dog and got what she believes she deserves.  There was no pattern of abuse before, or after.  While I did not develop a deep fondness for this man, I knew who and what he was and he did not venture from this.


 2.     What are your thoughts on Anna?

 Anna is a flawed human being.  Unlike Bruno, Anna is not a stereotypical woman in fact she defies it.  She is not a typical mother, loving wife or true friend.  Upon reading this novel I can’t say, as she would know what that should look like.  I wouldn’t say I liked Anna but I really wanted to love her because I think that is what she needed and felt she never deserved.

 3.     Discuss the dreams in this novel.

The dreams provide an insight into the real Anna.  Dreams are open to interpretation as is Anna with herself.  Anna’s dreams also help the relationship between Dr. Messerli and Anna, they can discuss and interpret together.  In Anna’s dreams we see truth, no hiding so we get to see the real Anna.

 4.     Essbaum decided the ending of the book in the first chapter how did that affect the way you read the story? 

The first 5 pages of this novel have my comments and asterisks all over it.  I could not believe the author showed her hand this soon.  The foreshadowing about the trains and the description of Anna had me thinking that there must be something great inside the pages.  What you get is the story of a woman unraveling.  You become witness to choices she makes and because of these choices and the inevitable results of these actions, tragic consequences unfold.  No one can look away from a train wreck so the reader sticks around just to see what will happen.

 5.     Discuss the friendship between Mary and Anna.

Anna has actively shut people out of her life for a long time.  When she meets Mary perhaps Anna senses that Mary is more like her than not.  On the outside, Mary appears to be everything that Anna is not.  Likewise, Mary perhaps realizes Anna is someone who will not judge her and on three instances reveals a clearer picture of her that makes Anna like her.  In Mary’s truths Anna finds a kinship she has not shared before and both woman realize this. 


More Discussion Questions

 6.     Discuss Anna’s relationship with her children.

 7.     Does Anna suffer from a mental illness>

 8.     How did Anna’s relationship with Stephen differ from the others?  What part did he play in Anna’s spiral?

 9.     What importance does the priest play in the last chapter?  For the first time she admits to needing help, why with a priest and not her doctor?


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