Leslie Larson

Breaking out of Bedlam

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Reader’s Guide/Discussion questions

reviews read chapter 1 why I wrote it Cora and her siblings are named after gems. Abel’s siblings are named after biblical characters. What is the significance of names in the novel?

In the last chapter, Cora says, “When I die and you come to clean out my house, you’ll find [these journals]. You can do whatever you want. I’ve pictured you reading them and finding out the truth. If you see any mistakes—spelling or wrong words—you can fix them. You have my okay.” Whom is she addressing?  What audience does she have in mind when she writes?

Discuss the men in Cora’s life: Edward, Abel, Marcos, and Vitus. How are they the similar? Different? What role does each play in Cora’s life? In the novel as a whole?

Cora says, “One thing I learned from this whole mess is never to forget that life can slap you in the face any minute it feels like it. For no reason at all, it can say Guess what and the next thing you know everything has changed, everything that you thought was true and right and forever don’t mean squat.” When and how does Cora get slapped in the face? How does she react? What are the long-term effects?

Why does Abel marry Cora? Why does he stay with her? What do they mean to each other? Why does he come back  as a ghost to comfort and counsel her?

Cora says, “My weight, or my size—like everybody likes to call it when what them mean is fat—has been the curse of my life.” What significance does Cora’s size have in the novel? How does it affect who she is and what happens over the course of her life?

Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon, says “Read this book to see redemption.” In what ways is Cora redeemed? What contributes to her redemption?

The two threads of the story, past and present, interweave throughout the narrative. How do these strands reflect and explain each other? How does the reader experience jumping from one to the other?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of structuring the novel as a journal? How does it affect the reading experience? How does it function in the pacing of the story? In the juxtaposition of Cora’s past and present life?

Why and how will Cora’s life be different when she returns to her house than when she left it? What is responsible for the transformation?




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