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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



shesha35 wrote:
I can finally join in the discussion.
Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the book.It's my first and will definately be picking up another one.
I think you really captured how a family and friends go through something like this.I was just hoping that once they found Kim there would be some hope of the fractured family getting some therapy and maybe coming together a little bit more.I'm a sucker for a happy ending and i wanted Lindsey to finally feel good aboout herself and not like she was second best.But your book was very heartwrenching i wanted all the characters to finally feel some peace.In my imaginaton they do.Do you have teenagers? You write there thoughts and actions so well.I was feeling Fran's anxiousness and helplessness trying to connect with Lindsey.It's the same kind of thing with me and my teenager.This book will stay with me a long time.


Thanks so much for reading the book.  I do wish it were happier, and provided more comfort at the end, but I think Lindsay makes her way through it.  I think she's strong, even if she became that way because of what she had to live through.
 
I do have teenagers--or have one and another child who's about to be 22--so I've got lots of first-haqnd experience trying to connect and stay connected, and worrying about their choice of friends and where they go and what they do.  A father worries.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



kiakar wrote:


bentley wrote:


Stewart_ONan   wrote:                                                                                                As I mentioned in an earlier post, I want the reader to speculate as to what might have happened but never know for sure--just as Ed and Fran and Nina and JP do.
 
By participating in the First Look program, I hope to have more readers meet and spend time with Fran and Ed and Lindsay and Nina and JP.



Thanks for all the questions and concerns.  I could tell you exactly what happened to Kim, but to me the reader's speculation as to what might have happened to Kim--along with the different Larsens', and Nina's, and J.P.'s--is a major part of the book.  You can put together the clues and come up with your version of what might have happened, just as you can put together what you know about Nina and come up with how and what you feel about her.  Another reader may have a different interpretation of that character, and that's okay.  The book, in a way, is like a Rohrshach blot.  Your reaction to it says as much about you as it does about the book.
 



Stewart, I really enjoyed your story line, your descriptions were out of this world good. But the characters even though you did a great job with describing them and explaining them but the real deep down emotion did not show.  You said you wanted us to feel this and also the stuff you didn't include for our knowledge. Is this a new concept in writing a novel? If there are many of these kinds of novels I hope I do not read them. Since I have been on first look book reads, they have been repeatingly these types of novels.  I am not school age, I do not want to think much anymore, I want a beautiful, interesting, ingenius story and I want the whole story. That is why I love to read. Sure, I love to learn with reading, you do that  even if you do not want to. Any level book will teach you something you have forgotten or have never known or learned. When I get into a Novel of fiction , that is just what I want it to be, I really dissolve right into that story and usually can't put it down until Iknow the details.  But if authors are not even putting all the details in, how can you read in a state of pretend if you know the author is not telling it all, its for us to make up or imagine.  Are your other books like this? Is the Red Lobster book like this? I have ordered it, but if it doesnt include all the details and facts I will let someone else read it that does like this sort of book. No hard feelings please, you are definitely a great precised writer, but I like my books all there, neatly with facts galore.


Thanks for reading the book, and for your comments.  It's true that a lot of what are called literary novels nowadays don't just come out and tell you the story, that you have to think and read between the lines and make inferences.  The Lobster isn't so much that way because its focus is so tight on one character, so maybe you'll like that one more.  I sure hope so.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



BookWoman718 wrote:
Stewart ONan wrote:
 
Thanks for liking Wish You Were Here.  You'll be pleased to hear I'm working on its sequel.  In fact, this afternoon I just finished a scene with Emily and Arlene and Margaret.

 
Now that's good news!  I'll be watching for it.   Spending a week with the family at their soon-to-be-sold vacation home was a great introduction  (OK, a loooong introduction)  but I'll be eager to see how each of them is progressing - or regressing, as the case may be...   I'm hoping they'll be able to come up with some creative ways to come out of their various funks.   And I'd better stop right now because I already want to ask a lot of questions, like how much time has gone by since we last saw them.   Maybe I'll just ask this:  do you have a tentative publication date?    Thanks again for your time;  you're a generous guy!


Ha--regressing.  You know those folks well.  And you know how family life is, we always revert to those basic relationships.  No pub date yet.  First I've got to write the dang thing.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



ELee wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:

See, now I'm the one smiling.  My thinking about Kim is that she's the missing center of their lives, just as she's the missing center of the book around which everything revolves, eternally. 


Ah, yes...like a doughnut.  You're right Stewart, you keep those "munchkins" (doughnut holes) to yourself!  I like what you did and the way that you did it.  I have a feeling that this book will be one that can be read and reread to one's advantage, with new details and insights occurring after the initial exposure.  I have added A Prayer for the Dying and The Circus Fire to my to-be-read shelf.  Since reading Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, my curiosity led to researching circus life online, which introduced me to the tragic Hartford fire.  I am looking forward to reading your book.  My question for you regarding Songs is: do you create the chapter headings before or after you have a reasonable version of the book that will be submitted for publication? 

 



Thanks, and nifty doughnut simile (though that's one bitter doughnut!).    Hope you find The Circus Fire informative.  It's a whole different genre for me.  Talk about fact-packed.
 
In answer to your question, I created the chapter headings as I wrote the early drafts and changed many of them in revision.  So they were always there, just as they were always there for The Good Wife and Last Night at the Lobster.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



pheath wrote:
Stewart,

Thank you for participating in the First Look program and making Songs for the Missing available to us. I have a question along a slightly different line than most of the others. Considering that Snow Angels has already been made into a movie, can you see the same happening for Songs for the Missing? How does your experience with Snow Angels and its adaptation factor into your answer?

Thanks,

Interesting.  I'm not sure I see Songs as a movie because so much of it is interiorized, and the time scheme is so loose.  Though, after my experience with Snow Angels, I could see a director like David Gordon Green making an interesting art film out of it.  But the pacing wouldn't be Hollywood-style, more like Antonioni.


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wendyroba
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan,

Thanks for spending time here with us and answering questions about Songs for the Missing. I don't really have a question...just a few comments. I really loved this book. I am a volunteer in Search and Rescue (I started as a dog handler, and then when my dog retired I became certified in mantracking) and I thought you got everything in this book exactly right: the slowness of the investigation, the media, the way that the searches start out with tons of exuberant people and then scale down until it is only the family's hope and maybe a couple of people who are obsessed with solving the case. What most people don't understand is that many times missing people are never found...so your novel focusing on those left behind really touched me. In reading the threads here, I was surprised that so many readers couldn't relate to Ed. He was my favorite character because I really felt his pain and the guilt (as a father) that he could not protect his daughter - he carried the burden of wanting to be the one who could bring her home...

Again, thanks for taking the time to talk to your readers. The only other book I had read by you was the one you co-authored with Stephen King (I'm a Red Sox fan!!!)...but I'm going to be remedying that and have put your other books on my giant wish list :smileyhappy:

Wendy
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



wendyroba wrote:
Mr. O'Nan,

Thanks for spending time here with us and answering questions about Songs for the Missing. I don't really have a question...just a few comments. I really loved this book. I am a volunteer in Search and Rescue (I started as a dog handler, and then when my dog retired I became certified in mantracking) and I thought you got everything in this book exactly right: the slowness of the investigation, the media, the way that the searches start out with tons of exuberant people and then scale down until it is only the family's hope and maybe a couple of people who are obsessed with solving the case. What most people don't understand is that many times missing people are never found...so your novel focusing on those left behind really touched me. In reading the threads here, I was surprised that so many readers couldn't relate to Ed. He was my favorite character because I really felt his pain and the guilt (as a father) that he could not protect his daughter - he carried the burden of wanting to be the one who could bring her home...

Again, thanks for taking the time to talk to your readers. The only other book I had read by you was the one you co-authored with Stephen King (I'm a Red Sox fan!!!)...but I'm going to be remedying that and have put your other books on my giant wish list :smileyhappy:

Wendy

Thanks so much for reading the book, and for your kind words.  They mean that much more coming from someone who knows the territory. 
 
I can see readers not relating to certain characters, as the characters themselves have trouble relating to each other.  Fran, for instance, when seen by Lindsay, can come off in a bad light.  What readers should remember is that in many of these sections, we're seeing VERY subjective views of people in a desperate situation.  Point of view colors everything.  The situation doesn't suddenly make them see each other with a clearer, more empathetic eye--in fact, Lindsay's eye becomes that much colder.  And just as Fran doesn't understand Ed's reaction to Kim going missing, Ed doesn't understand Fran's.  It's up to the reader to weigh these differing views.  I know that's asking more of some readers than they're willing to give, but I hope that approach will ultimately reward close reading.
 
Thanks for reading Faithful.  Maybe the only one of my books with a truly happy ending.


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ClaudiaLuce
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

I too am truly excited to know that you are writing a sequel to Wish You Were Here!!  I so wanted to know whether or not the family goes back to the lake the next summer; either to a rental, their own "retrieved" vacation home, to the Institute, or to the lodge.  I was able to "project" my own sequel, but am anxiously awaiting the arrival of yours!! When can we expect publication?  Any chance on getting a review copy of that book before it hits the shelves? I CAN"T WAIT!!
 
Claudia
"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." -
-- Sir Richard Steele
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bookhunter
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan,
 
Wooze was a character in the story that I would have liked to known more about.  Did you write any chapters from his point of view and choose not to include them?  I know he is sort of a red herring suspect, but showing up at the grave site indicates he really cared about Kim.
 
Thanks,
Ann, bookhunter
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Everyman
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

But it was there, for at least on message!

Maria_H wrote:
I tried!

I swear.

But no apostrophes are allowed on this platform. It doesn't care much for any kind of punctuation.


Stewart_ONan wrote:

That apostrophe's tricky. Hotel clerks can never find my reservations.



_______________
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

ROFLMAO!

Maria_H wrote:
*You* do?! Well, didn't you just make my day.


bentley wrote:
You tried; we forgive you.



_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Peppermill
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:


the_mad_chatter wrote:
Hi Mr. O'Nan,
This weekend I read a quote from Charles Darwin that basically said that it's not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survive but those who can adapt. It made me think of your story because we are rooting throughout the book for each character to survive the horror of Kim's disappearance and there are certainly few adabtable charaters in your book.
We've had some great discussions about the book and I hope you'll take some time to read a few threads. I've enjoyed the heated debates and passions and would like to thank you for all the clues.
Bravo!


Thanks--and a great point. Their adaptations change and maybe even warp them, and then there's Ed, who basically can't change and just have to keep living even though most of his world is gone.





That's not how I read Ed. Mr. O'Nan, you have been dropping viewpoints about your characters throughout these posts that I wish you had made more suggestive in your original text. What you say here isn't inconsistent, it just tells me more than I was capable as a reader of reaching on my own.

Now, maybe that is a comment on my reading skills.....

Pepper
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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vivico1
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan


Peppermill wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


the_mad_chatter wrote:
Hi Mr. O'Nan,
This weekend I read a quote from Charles Darwin that basically said that it's not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survive but those who can adapt. It made me think of your story because we are rooting throughout the book for each character to survive the horror of Kim's disappearance and there are certainly few adabtable charaters in your book.
We've had some great discussions about the book and I hope you'll take some time to read a few threads. I've enjoyed the heated debates and passions and would like to thank you for all the clues.
Bravo!


Thanks--and a great point. Their adaptations change and maybe even warp them, and then there's Ed, who basically can't change and just have to keep living even though most of his world is gone.





That's not how I read Ed. Mr. O'Nan, you have been dropping viewpoints about your characters throughout these posts that I wish you had made more suggestive in your original text. What you say here isn't inconsistent, it just tells me more than I was capable as a reader of reaching on my own.

Now, maybe that is a comment on my reading skills.....

Pepper


Pepper, Its not just you and I feel the exact same way. I have gotten more out of this book and more about the characters through these posts than I got out of the book alone. When someone said, the information about JP was stunning! Well, a lot of it we knew but a lot of it was some real revelation, real insight into what the heck was going on with the family and JP, or JP himself, since I too found him to be a more major player than evidently he was. I am not a young person, this is not my first book and I know from your posts in other clubs Pepper that you are as insightful as anyone in reading! So here's the thing, I agree with you completely and if we needed the help of Mr. O'Nan to better understand the characters, and we have a whole new grasp of it by talking to him, how will it work then with the public at large who will just be reading it without all these insights? Stewart, I know you want the reader to do their part and put their perspective and thoughts into it, but I think what we are saying is, if we had known this much more about the characters as we have gotten here, then we could have put our own feelings to it. We could have not only sympathized but also empathized with this one or that one or understood why this person was doing this or that and then wonder, would we feel or do the same? Thats when we could have put more of ourselves into it instead of bugging you about information on them now. This has been quite an interesting discussion indeed.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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caseylc
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan:
 
My question was already answered.  I wanted to say that I really enjoyed the book and understood why you left so much open ended.  I can say as much as it can be frustrating to readers that need all the answers, I also enjoy a good book that leaves you hanging.  As soon as I finished, the moment of frustration quickly turned to elaboration in my own mind of what I think happened.  I understood that to be the point immediately.  I intend to recommend this book to others.
 
Without this first look, I am not sure that I would have discovered you as a writer.  I loved your writing style and I intend to read your other books as well.  As soon as I finished Songs, I searched for your other books.  I will take your advice on what to start with. 
 
Thanks so much for the opportunity to share your book with us.  I am an avid reader and it is a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
 
Sincerely,
 
Casey 
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LucyintheOC
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Dear Mr. O'Nan,

Thank you for taking your time to participate in this month's discussion. It takes up a lot of time to be a participant and I appreciate you taking that time to be with us and answer our questions.

I like your writing, a lot! I am so glad that I was introduced to you through B&N's March book club (Last Night at the Lobster). I was impressed at how you could say so much in 156 pages (give or take a page or two) that other authors can't fit into 300 or more. I like everything about the way you write and tell a story, but expecially your economy with words. I feel the same way after reading Songs for the Missing, which I'm so glad was chosen to be a First Look selection. It is a great book, that I had a difficult time reading. I had to read it in chunks--I would read a bit, then put it down for a day or two, then pick it back up. At certain points, like another reader, I skipped ahead, then went back and picked up where I left off. Sometimes, I just couldn't stand "not knowing" and I lost my patience and just had to see if I could find my answers "somewhere in the future" (i.e. farther into the book) but like real life, sometimes the answers weren't there. I love that about your writing style--you seem to know just what to include and what to omit.

I look foward to having time to read more of your works. I have recommended Last Night at the Lobster to my book group (which meets at a local B&N one Saturday each month) or, as I said to them, any other of your books whose story may appeal to the group more--but that we should definitely read something by you. I'm really happy that I know about you as an author so I can look for more of your works as you publish.

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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Are there any questions you think we should have asked but didn't, and if so what, and what would your answers have been?
_______________
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Peppermill
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Thank you, Vivian, for helping me try to communicate.

Your phrase "and then wonder, would we feel or do the same?" captures a lot of the issue for me. Yes, indeed, I could read the story and overlay my own feelings and interpretations on the actions -- and it could have been a very good story just there. But I wanted to "know and understand" the characters and what motivated them.

I think Stewart is a very good author. As someone else here has said, he packs a lot into a few pages. I love much of his detail. There are times and places he told me "enough" about the motivations of the characters that I think I "got it." But, there were other places where I just said, "what's going on here? I think this is how I would feel in that situation, but I am very uncertain this is 'accurate'." Now, I can read by creating alternative scenarios, but there were places where that didn't work for me either. So, yes, these posts have provided "aha" moments that my personal feeling is that many readers are impoverished without. Does everyone share those feelings? Obviously not. But I just feel it was too easy to slap ready explanations on Ed and Fran, especially, where our author had obviously gone much deeper and in unexpected directions (unexpected, at least to me) without giving (me, at least) adequate clues.

I love Stewart's comments about this is a story in which the center goes missing permanently. I don't interpret that to mean that Kim was always the center, rather that such was the result of her disappearance. But the one clue I remember of the "circling" these words image was something about Lindsay saying to her lover many years later .... Otherwise, the trajectory of the story to me was about moving on -- returning to mourn, but still moving on. How powerful that center image is -- it changes all sorts of assumptions about F,E,&L it has set me re-examining grief stories in my own life.




vivico1 wrote:

Peppermill wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


the_mad_chatter wrote {ed}:
Hi Mr. O'Nan,
This weekend I read a quote from Charles Darwin that basically said that it's not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survive but those who can adapt. It made me think of your story because we are rooting throughout the book for each character to survive the horror of Kim's disappearance and there are certainly few adaptable characters in your book.
We've had some great discussions about the book and I hope you'll take some time to read a few threads. I've enjoyed the heated debates and passions and would like to thank you for all the clues.
Bravo!


Thanks--and a great point. Their adaptations change and maybe even warp them, and then there's Ed, who basically can't change and just have to keep living even though most of his world is gone.





That's not how I read Ed. Mr. O'Nan, you have been dropping viewpoints about your characters throughout these posts that I wish you had made more suggestive in your original text. What you say here isn't inconsistent, it just tells me more than I was capable as a reader of reaching on my own.

Now, maybe that is a comment on my reading skills.....

Pepper


Pepper, Its not just you and I feel the exact same way. I have gotten more out of this book and more about the characters through these posts than I got out of the book alone. When someone said, the information about JP was stunning! Well, a lot of it we knew but a lot of it was some real revelation, real insight into what the heck was going on with the family and JP, or JP himself, since I too found him to be a more major player than evidently he was. I am not a young person, this is not my first book and I know from your posts in other clubs Pepper that you are as insightful as anyone in reading! So here's the thing, I agree with you completely and if we needed the help of Mr. O'Nan to better understand the characters, and we have a whole new grasp of it by talking to him, how will it work then with the public at large who will just be reading it without all these insights? Stewart, I know you want the reader to do their part and put their perspective and thoughts into it, but I think what we are saying is, if we had known this much more about the characters as we have gotten here, then we could have put our own feelings to it. We could have not only sympathized but also empathized with this one or that one or understood why this person was doing this or that and then wonder, would we feel or do the same? Thats when we could have put more of ourselves into it instead of bugging you about information on them now. This has been quite an interesting discussion indeed.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



ClaudiaLuce wrote:
I too am truly excited to know that you are writing a sequel to Wish You Were Here!!  I so wanted to know whether or not the family goes back to the lake the next summer; either to a rental, their own "retrieved" vacation home, to the Institute, or to the lodge.  I was able to "project" my own sequel, but am anxiously awaiting the arrival of yours!! When can we expect publication?  Any chance on getting a review copy of that book before it hits the shelves? I CAN"T WAIT!!
 
Claudia


Thanks for your enthusiasm.  It's good to know folks want to read more about Emily et al.  No idea when it'll be done, but I'm enjoying my time with them.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



bookhunter wrote:
Mr. O'Nan,
 
Wooze was a character in the story that I would have liked to known more about.  Did you write any chapters from his point of view and choose not to include them?  I know he is sort of a red herring suspect, but showing up at the grave site indicates he really cared about Kim.
 
Thanks,
Ann, bookhunter


Wooze is part of Kim's secret life.  I didn't write any sections from his POV, but obviously he had a strange place in her world (as she did in his), and her disappearance definitely has had an effect on him.  Where he goes from here, I'm not sure, but he's an interesting guy.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Peppermill wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


the_mad_chatter wrote:
Hi Mr. O'Nan,
This weekend I read a quote from Charles Darwin that basically said that it's not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survive but those who can adapt. It made me think of your story because we are rooting throughout the book for each character to survive the horror of Kim's disappearance and there are certainly few adabtable charaters in your book.
We've had some great discussions about the book and I hope you'll take some time to read a few threads. I've enjoyed the heated debates and passions and would like to thank you for all the clues.
Bravo!


Thanks--and a great point. Their adaptations change and maybe even warp them, and then there's Ed, who basically can't change and just have to keep living even though most of his world is gone.





That's not how I read Ed. Mr. O'Nan, you have been dropping viewpoints about your characters throughout these posts that I wish you had made more suggestive in your original text. What you say here isn't inconsistent, it just tells me more than I was capable as a reader of reaching on my own.

Now, maybe that is a comment on my reading skills.....

Pepper

I think this line from p. 192 is pretty much to-the-point:  'In a larger sense, much of his daily life as he knew it no longer mattered, yet he clung to it.' 
 
Also the way he tries to stick with the old routines of his life (like fishing or watching the Indians) but finds them empty and unhelpful. 
 
His attitude is apparent throughout pp. 226-232, including lines like:  'He had to wake up and go to work.  He had to eat and sleep and know what was coming up on the calendar, though he no longer looked forward to anything.  Pretending to be interested took a constant effort.  When he was by himself he went slack, and then he remembered he had to fix the light in the closet or refill the cars with wiper fluid or buy more ice melter.'
 
Likewise, the way he doesn't understand how Fran can go running around being positive and public, expending all this energy.


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