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KxBurns
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Characters

Which characters did you like best, or dislike, and why?

Did the roles that various characters took on over the course of the book surprise you at all?

I liked Groff's subversive move in having hippie, secret-keeper, unwed mother Vi turn out to be the nurturing force/voice of reason while town founder and family progenitor Marmaduke Temple turns out to be a pariah.

And to me, Davey Shipman/Natty Bumppo was the moral center of the book, although he appeared only briefly. But maybe you disagree?

What about Clarissa?

Have at it!

-Karen
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Tarri
Posts: 457
Registered: ‎02-26-2007
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Re: Characters

Richard and Anna are definitely characters I liked and wished had longer and happier lifes. Also, Clarissa is someone who I think would be a great real life friend. I agree with you on Davey/Natty being a moral compass, but Richard is too.

I didn't like Vi at the beginning of the book, but she really grew on me and by the end of the book I understood her and admired who she had become.

I liked Hetty Averell and believe she was an extremely intelligent woman, at the very least I admire her way of coping with adversity.

The most surprising thing for me, is that in the end I don't really like the person Willie has become, but who knows what her future holds.
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KxBurns
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Re: Characters

[ Edited ]

Tarri wrote:
Richard and Anna are definitely characters I liked and wished had longer and happier lifes. Also, Clarissa is someone who I think would be a great real life friend. I agree with you on Davey/Natty being a moral compass, but Richard is too.

I didn't like Vi at the beginning of the book, but she really grew on me and by the end of the book I understood her and admired who she had become.

I liked Hetty Averell and believe she was an extremely intelligent woman, at the very least I admire her way of coping with adversity.

The most surprising thing for me, is that in the end I don't really like the person Willie has become, but who knows what her future holds.



Yes, Willie is a very flawed heroine, and even at the novel's end she is still a work in progress. But we don't really need to like her to appreciate her journey, do we?

In a way, our feelings toward Willie -- frustration with her choices, dismay at her shortcomings -- mirror her feelings toward some of her ancestors.

And you're right -- we can add Richard to our (short :smileyhappy: ) list of morally "good" people in the book!

-Karen

Message Edited by KxBurns on 10-17-2007 09:13 AM
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KxBurns
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Willie

So here's a question: in what ways do you think Willie matures over the course of her summer?

For one thing, I think she becomes able to put the feelings of the important people in her life ahead of her own. She shows this by warming to Milky for Vi's sake and by the changing dynamic in her relationship with Clarissa. Earlier in the book, she calls Clarissa to discuss her own problems with little thought for Clarissa's well-being. Willie is worried about her friend, yes, but that doesn't translate into being able to resist using her friend as a sounding board at times when Clarissa should be resting.

Toward the end, Willie has developed better protective instincts toward Clarissa and is even content to leave her in Vi's care in spite of what I think are pretty clear feelings of jealousy of that relationship.

Did you notice any other signs of growth?
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mishabelle
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Re: Willie

Willie also matures in her treatment of former classmates. She initially judges Zeke Felcher as a town hick, and also holds against him his high school behavior. Yet of the two of them, he's the more mature. Still... it almost seems as if Willie's change of heart regarding Zeke has alot to do with his physical transformation.
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teacher1
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Re: Willie

Another way Willie matures occurs when she accepts Vi's minister boyfriend. I know I would have a hard time with that, but she sees that he makes her mother happy. She matures as she confronts her father, and her decision to return to finish her PhD is a definite step in the right direction.
I actually like Vi - a nonconformist in such a conservative environment. That she would like the minister, however, is still debatable. I really don't see why Lauren included that part. Did it move the story along? Add anything to our understanding of theme? I'm not so sure.
There are no other characters that I like but that is okay. Willie and Vi are the heart of the story.
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lmpmn
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Re: Willie



KxBurns wrote:
So here's a question: in what ways do you think Willie matures over the course of her summer?

For one thing, I think she becomes able to put the feelings of the important people in her life ahead of her own. She shows this by warming to Milky for Vi's sake and by the changing dynamic in her relationship with Clarissa. Earlier in the book, she calls Clarissa to discuss her own problems with little thought for Clarissa's well-being. Willie is worried about her friend, yes, but that doesn't translate into being able to resist using her friend as a sounding board at times when Clarissa should be resting.

Toward the end, Willie has developed better protective instincts toward Clarissa and is even content to leave her in Vi's care in spite of what I think are pretty clear feelings of jealousy of that relationship.

Did you notice any other signs of growth?






In chapter 29, Vi motivates Willie to get out of bed and back to work. Willie tells her "I am very happy that you are happy. That you've finally let yourself be happy." I think that shows growth on Willie's part. She's accepted the fact that Vi is happy with the reverend, even if he's not Willie's idea of romance.
Happiness is a warm blanket!
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ShelleyJ
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Re: Characters

Although I didn't really like the character of Willie, I thought the fact that she was an archeologist was a nice point. She plays the archeologist with her own family, peeling away layers from the most recent generation back through time.

Part of the problem with Willie is that she is so intelligent and highly educated, yet is such an emotional mess throughout the book. She comes home to be a kid again and let her mother take care of her, yet finds that her mother is busy taking care of her own relationship with the minister and spending hours on the phone with Clarissa. Of course there's a bit of jealousy there - which results in outright animosity towards the minister and lots of hurt feelings with Clarissa. She's in a state where she's completely selfish, so as a reader, I don't want to sympathize with her (and I don't think Clarissa or Vi want to symphathize, either!). However, as she starts this family history search - for purely selfish reasons, of course - she ends up connecting with the town in surprising ways and being pulled out of her personal gloom despite herself. Part of the connection is a more literal one, in that she's related to a lot more people in the town than she realized. But she also connects with Peter and Hazel at the library, as well as with Zeke and her own father.

So I guess I still don't really like Willie all that much, but she was an effective way to bring out the story of the town and to connect all these very different personalities to each other!
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lmpmn
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Willie

I wanted to talk about Willie and her experiences with men in her life.

I'd like to preface this with a bit of my own background. My dad died in an accident when I was 3, and I have absolutely no memories of him. I have a sister seven years older than me. At the age of 14, she got involved with a man 7 years older than her. When I was the same age, I did the same thing. So, my point is that I don't think we were with these older men by coincidence. We were both searching for a father figure (cliche). I truly believe that.

What's Willie looking for with the men in her life?

Throughout the book, we learn more and more about the men in Willie's life. I think the only really positive relationship she had with men were the Running Buds. Even then, we find in chapter 17 how she met the Buds. She said of herself, "By four years old, I had also somehow learned that if I spoke in a small, sad voice, and said that I had no father, I had a great mystical power over adults, and, mainly, over men." So she goes to each of them and manipulates her way into getting ice cream.

I think she is so much like Hetty in the way that she can "run" men. Look how she just jumped right into the mile high club with "Mr. Toad." In chapter 6 she tells us how she has a thing for authority figures, funny guys, and an "eentsy little promiscuity problem." She excuses herself as not promiscuous, "just sexually bipolar." Then later in the book, she hops into the bushes with Zeke.

Wow! Maybe I'm a prude, but this girl's got issues. I'm not a psychologist, but I really think there's something to the idea that she's searching. We know she's literally searching for her father now, but before that search began, she was missing something in her life. Personally, I think women substitute sex for the protection, intimacy, and most important, love, they may be missing in their life. Whether that be from a father or husband/boyfriend it doesn't matter.

Then there's the part in chapter 19 where she asks what happens between Vi and the reverend when she sleeps over at his house. Vi tells Willie how nice it is to just be held. She says, "I just hope you'll know how it feels someday." Willie replies, "I do know how it feels." But she's not so sure of herself. Later, Willie sees Vi and the reverend embrace as they come home from the hospital, and he's waiting for them. Willie sees "how they were enlaced, two unlovely aging bodies, I felt, for a moment, the darkest envy I have ever felt in my life."

Anyway, these are my thoughts on the subject. I just felt a bit of connection with Willie in this respect--I had issues once too. :smileyhappy: Sorry this got so long!
Happiness is a warm blanket!
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dhaupt
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Re: Characters

So many characters so little time, I think I liked Vi as my single favorite character, but I really liked the Running Buds as a group. It surprised me how Vi matured as Willie grew up and even though her methods were a little unorthodoxed they worked for the two of them, it reminded me of my relationship with my own daughter and how it's changed from the time she was little to now as a grown woman herself and I saw our reactions to things mirrored in Vi and Willie. Then in the not main character group I really liked Noname, she was to me the ulitmate victim
I think my least favorite character was Cinnamon Averell Stokes Stakweather Sturgis Graves Peck. She was the devil incarnate.
As far as Clarissa goes I think Willie was very magnanimous about sharing her mother with her and sometimes I feel she liked Willie because of Vi. I think she was a user in a book filled to the top with users.
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DSaff
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Re: Characters

I wasn't sure about Vi at the beginning of the book but found that I really enjoyed her character. She showed how we have different stages in our lives, each either making us stronger or bringing us down. We can see Vi grow due to her life experiences. It didn't seem odd to find her in a relationship with the Reverend. She had grown up and found someone to share her life with. Big change from her radical days? Yes. Odd, not really. I also loved the Running Buds with all of their foibles. They were friends through thick and thin. And then there was Hazel who proves that appearances, and age, can be deceiving.

I didn't like Primus but felt his character was necessary for the storyline. I think each character brought a piece of Willie's puzzle to the table, and each was necessary to bring it to completion.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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KxBurns
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Re: Characters


dhaupt wrote:
So many characters so little time, I think I liked Vi as my single favorite character, but I really liked the Running Buds as a group. It surprised me how Vi matured as Willie grew up and even though her methods were a little unorthodoxed they worked for the two of them, it reminded me of my relationship with my own daughter and how it's changed from the time she was little to now as a grown woman herself and I saw our reactions to things mirrored in Vi and Willie. Then in the not main character group I really liked Noname, she was to me the ulitmate victim
I think my least favorite character was Cinnamon Averell Stokes Stakweather Sturgis Graves Peck. She was the devil incarnate.
As far as Clarissa goes I think Willie was very magnanimous about sharing her mother with her and sometimes I feel she liked Willie because of Vi. I think she was a user in a book filled to the top with users.



Dhaupt, I'm surprised by your view of Clarissa. I saw her relationship with Vi as being more initiated by Vi, who saw in Clarissa a child in need of a mother figure and a kindred spirit. Even in her relationship with Willie, it seemed for most of the book that Willie was the "taker" and Clarissa the "giver." Of course, that's just my take on it and you are absolutely entitled to your own assessment!

-Karen
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KxBurns
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Re: Willie

lmpmn, thank you so much for sharing your personal insight into the character of Willie!

I agree that Willie definitely has father issues that permeate all her relationships with men. And I, too, was struck by the manipulative origins of her friendship with the Buds -- kind of suprising for a child so young but then again, perhaps not as kids do have a way of getting what they want! But this is not a healthy dynamic to bring to one's relationships.

What do you make of her relationship with Felcher? Is she continuing the unhealthy pattern, or is this a step in the right direction?

-Karen
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Deltadawn
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Re: Characters


KxBurns wrote:

Tarri wrote:
Richard and Anna are definitely characters I liked and wished had longer and happier lifes. Also, Clarissa is someone who I think would be a great real life friend. I agree with you on Davey/Natty being a moral compass, but Richard is too.

I didn't like Vi at the beginning of the book, but she really grew on me and by the end of the book I understood her and admired who she had become.

I liked Hetty Averell and believe she was an extremely intelligent woman, at the very least I admire her way of coping with adversity.

The most surprising thing for me, is that in the end I don't really like the person Willie has become, but who knows what her future holds.



Yes, Willie is a very flawed heroine, and even at the novel's end she is still a work in progress. But we don't really need to like her to appreciate her journey, do we?

In a way, our feelings toward Willie -- frustration with her choices, dismay at her shortcomings -- mirror her feelings toward some of her ancestors.

And you're right -- we can add Richard to our (short :smileyhappy: ) list of morally "good" people in the book!

-Karen

Message Edited by KxBurns on 10-17-2007 09:13 AM


Yes, I agree with your opinions about Willie. She certainly has learned a great deal through her journey. However, she remains insensitive to others up until the very end.
I have mixed feelings about Vi, but overall do feel that she is a nurturing and spiritual person, with a certain amount of wisdom. Her relationship with Clarissa was very moving.
And, it turns out the Reverend Milky was not as bad as Willie had imagined him to be. In fact, he seems to be a good partner for her mother, after all.
I loved Hetty in real life and Hetty the ghost. Hazel Pomeroy was a joy.
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Deltadawn
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Re: Willie


mishabelle wrote:
Willie also matures in her treatment of former classmates. She initially judges Zeke Felcher as a town hick, and also holds against him his high school behavior. Yet of the two of them, he's the more mature. Still... it almost seems as if Willie's change of heart regarding Zeke has alot to do with his physical transformation.




However, I feel that overall (though not as much as in earlier parts of the book) she is still kind of insensitive towards him.
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macecilia
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Re: Characters

I like to like the protagonist, or at least identify with her at some level (specially when it is written in 1st person). Willie is way too different to move me. I like a lot of the other characters better. Even Zeke is more mature and Vi shows a more possitive change.
cecilia
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asawhill73
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Re: Characters


ShelleyJ wrote:
Although I didn't really like the character of Willie, I thought the fact that she was an archeologist was a nice point. She plays the archeologist with her own family, peeling away layers from the most recent generation back through time.

Part of the problem with Willie is that she is so intelligent and highly educated, yet is such an emotional mess throughout the book. She comes home to be a kid again and let her mother take care of her, yet finds that her mother is busy taking care of her own relationship with the minister and spending hours on the phone with Clarissa. Of course there's a bit of jealousy there - which results in outright animosity towards the minister and lots of hurt feelings with Clarissa. She's in a state where she's completely selfish, so as a reader, I don't want to sympathize with her (and I don't think Clarissa or Vi want to symphathize, either!). However, as she starts this family history search - for purely selfish reasons, of course - she ends up connecting with the town in surprising ways and being pulled out of her personal gloom despite herself. Part of the connection is a more literal one, in that she's related to a lot more people in the town than she realized. But she also connects with Peter and Hazel at the library, as well as with Zeke and her own father.

So I guess I still don't really like Willie all that much, but she was an effective way to bring out the story of the town and to connect all these very different personalities to each other!


I totally agree with your analyses of Willie; you have succinctly expressed my shared thoughts. I didn't care for her and was disappointed and frustrated by these feelings while reading the book. It's very difficult for me to immerse myself in the story when I do not like the main character. I found myself having to re-read some of the chapters involving her because I couldn't concentrate on her personal plight; I just didn't care about her enough.
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KxBurns
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Re: Characters


asawhill73 wrote:

ShelleyJ wrote:
Although I didn't really like the character of Willie, I thought the fact that she was an archeologist was a nice point. She plays the archeologist with her own family, peeling away layers from the most recent generation back through time.

Part of the problem with Willie is that she is so intelligent and highly educated, yet is such an emotional mess throughout the book. She comes home to be a kid again and let her mother take care of her, yet finds that her mother is busy taking care of her own relationship with the minister and spending hours on the phone with Clarissa. Of course there's a bit of jealousy there - which results in outright animosity towards the minister and lots of hurt feelings with Clarissa. She's in a state where she's completely selfish, so as a reader, I don't want to sympathize with her (and I don't think Clarissa or Vi want to symphathize, either!). However, as she starts this family history search - for purely selfish reasons, of course - she ends up connecting with the town in surprising ways and being pulled out of her personal gloom despite herself. Part of the connection is a more literal one, in that she's related to a lot more people in the town than she realized. But she also connects with Peter and Hazel at the library, as well as with Zeke and her own father.

So I guess I still don't really like Willie all that much, but she was an effective way to bring out the story of the town and to connect all these very different personalities to each other!


I totally agree with your analyses of Willie; you have succinctly expressed my shared thoughts. I didn't care for her and was disappointed and frustrated by these feelings while reading the book. It's very difficult for me to immerse myself in the story when I do not like the main character. I found myself having to re-read some of the chapters involving her because I couldn't concentrate on her personal plight; I just didn't care about her enough.




I see what you're saying, asawhill73. I guess my feeling (and I think ShelleyJ's) is that Willie's faults serve a purpose to the story. The book, to me, was about Willie evolving as she becomes disabused of her idealization of this town and her family's place in it. So it wouldn't have made sense for her to be mature and completely likeable from the start.

And I think she does grow over the course of her summer. Although we don't see too much of Willie in flashback (just the Primus Dwyer stuff) we do get the sense that she's an overachiever and I think she eventually learns to accept her own imperfections and those of others.

Did you feel like you connected more with some of the other characters?
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KxBurns
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Peter Lieder

All along I suspected Peter Lieder of being up to something; for some reason, I thought he would turn out to be harboring a dark secret of his own. But in the end this was not the case. Perhaps he was just in love with Willie...

What did you all think of this character? Did you get the feeling he was shady? Or would he have been a better match for Willie than Zeke?
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KxBurns
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Vi

I know we've discussed Vi quite a bit. Back in our thread for the first few chapters there was some talk of Vi repenting for past sins, both by coming clean to Willie and by finding religion.

I'm wondering if you think Vi has successfully found redemption? Or if she even had to? Maybe it's enough that she found a sense of peace in her life... What do you think?
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