Maybe some day I’ll be a hardened old author, smoking cigarettes at my desk and shunning the spotlight, but as of today I’m giddy with the idea that people are finally getting to read this book I spent so long working on. I wold love to teleconference in for your book club for a chat. Contact me for more information.
Below you’ll find a list of discussion questions for “142 Ostriches.” Spoiler alert: some of them do hint at plot points in the story. Probably best to wait until you’ve read the book before scrolling down.
Reading Group Questions
1) Consider the men in this story. What role do they play in a family that is predominantly female? Are they, as Grandma Helen suggests, untrustworthy? Do you agree with Annie’s assertion that we all need partners in life?
2) How has substance abuse affected each generation of the Jones family? Why do you think Aunt Christine has not turned to alcohol or drugs? What role, if any, do you think Aunt Christine’s faith plays in her choices?
3) Aunt Christine suggests that the birds have stopped laying eggs because they miss Grandma Helen. Given the fact that there is nothing physically wrong with the ostriches, do you believe that their temporary barrenness is due to emotional upset? If so, what helps them deal with their grief and begin producing eggs again?
4) Is Tallulah an honest person? Honest with herself? Honest with others? After being arrested, Tallulah resolves to face her problems head on, yet she struggles to be forthright in all of her interactions. What do you make of her tendency to hide from reality? Is it something you can relate to in your own life?
5) One of the main themes of the story is motherhood. Consider how Tallulah’s mom, Aunt Christine, and Grandma Helen differ in their mothering styles. What is your opinion of Grandma Helen’s assertion that you don’t have to be close to someone to love them?
6) The judge at Tallulah’s arraignment is easily convinced that she is an upstanding citizen. Why does this come as such a surprise to Tallulah? Is Tallulah a good person?
7) In what ways does the desert define Sombra? How is Sombra like other small towns? In what ways is it different? In what ways does the desert environment determine the outcome of this story?
8) How would the story change if it were set on a different type of ranch? A cattle ranch? Chickens?
9) How would the story be different if it were told from Uncle Steve’s perspective? What about Aunt Christine’s perspective? What if Matt were our narrator?
10) What is the difference between faith and trust in this story? How would Aunt Christine answer this question? Or Tallulah? How does Laura’s whiskey glass theory distinguish between faith and trust? Is her theory useful?