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Rachel-K
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Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

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How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?

 

From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 

Do the Skala boys understand their own stories more clearly than we do?

 

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeing baby Karel?

 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

Those are interesting questions. I am not sure I totally pieced it together.You never see the actual moment of death. You just know that in his last moments Vaclav is hallucinating and is angry at his boys, wanting them to finish their chores, reminding Karel clearly of his history of cruelty. You know that Karel can't pick him up and get him to safety alone, since he is buried in the mud but you know that he wanted to go for help.
I assumed Karel listened to his father when Vaclav refused to let him leave and go for help and that he waited there for him to die, caught, almost paralyzed, in his father's grip, as he was symbolically caught, unable to resist his father's demands throughout his life.
My other thought was that he left him to die alone when he went for help. Since Vaclav was mortally wounded and beyond all help, when he returned he must have found him dead.

As I read the book, though, I actually thought Karel might have had more of a hand in his dad's death because he was so cruel, even in the end, to the horse. I was pleased to know that he didn't willingly cause it. It felt a bit like the horse might have gotten his just revenge, but sadly, he was also doomed to die.

 

Rachel-K wrote:

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?

From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?

 

 

 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

 

Sophie was a rare woman. She understood the power of listening as a device. She knew what Karel did. If she yelled at him, she would have accomplished very little. In getting him to admit his "crimes", in listening without judging, she was reallly able to forgive him and perhaps allow him to see the error of his ways and reform himself. I think I might need to sometimes take a lesson from her. :smileywink:
Rachel-K wrote:

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 


 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

 

When the story begins, we find Karel orphaned by the death of his mother in childbirth. When it ends, we learn about his first moments with a maternal figure.
Karel needed to forgive himself, for stealing the life from his mother. He needed to forgive himself for suckling at the breast of another woman, while his mother lay in her grave. All his whole life he blamed himself. 
In telling Hildi's story, I think we all discover that  by suckling at her breast, he gave comfort to her in her loss as she gave comfort to him, in his loss. He had lost his mother and she had lost her son. The story came full circle as the scales, were balanced.
Rachel-K wrote

 

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeing baby Karel?

 


 

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dhaupt
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

Hi everyone and Happy Monday. 

 

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?

from bits and pieces of facts that the author gives us throughout the novel until the end, but then the author still leaves us to fill in some of the blanks by ourselves.

 

From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death? 

The one thing I was praying for was that it was an accident, I didn't want to find out that Karel or any of his brothers had anything to do with it.

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

It fills in the blanks just when the questions come into my mind, I really appreciated the time shifting. 

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 I think it was her "Wake of Forgiveness" to Karel


Do the Skala boys understand their own stories more clearly than we do?

Yes they do, and they own it more than Karel also and we find that out when he sees them all together after the barn burning

 

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeing baby Karel?

Because that brought it full circle and was a perfect place to end it.

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ssizemore
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

It seems that the story of these brothers was very complex!  Karel certainly has many things about which he feels guilty.  The loss of his mother touched him beyond measure and affected all of his other relationships.  He is told that his parents were very loving and playful and he feels that all of this was lost because of his birth.  He feels that he has betrayed his mother by accepting nourishment from the wet nurse.  He was forced to let his father die in the field, even though he wanted to save him.  This after his father spent Karel's whole life taunting, blaming, and rejecting him.  He feels guilty and angry because of the night he spent with Graciela.  He loved her and could not believe that she would be with him and marry his brother the next day.  His visit to Thom's home after the fire ends that grief as he realizes that Graciela and Thom have made a wonderful, loving family and that Thom has forgiven him.

Karel has lived with all of this pain, yet Sophia has been a soothing presence to him.  She knows of his failures instinctively and does not blame him.  Perhaps by the end of the novel, he has realized that the blame was created in his mind in many ways.  He could not change the fact that his mother died; his brothers had forgiven him for his harshness; and perhaps he can remember the few times that his father had shown him kindness and even love.

The book ends with a beautiful scene, that of Hildi first nursing baby Karel.  She has lost so much in her young life, the respect of her family and her precious child.  She feels the absence of her child as Karel would feel the loss of his mother.  She even thinks that perhaps Karel's mother is caring her for child in heaven.  The scene is one of reconciliation and does bring the story full circle.  There is much forgiveness granted and received as the book ends.  I think the scene with Hildi will be the one that stays in my mind long after I close the book!

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DSaff
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

I honestly thought that Karel had a hand in his father's death because of the way the twins spoke to him. I expected to find that he had hurt him and left him in the mud to die, not that the horse had actually fallen on, and killed, him. Karel knew his father wouldn't make it when he found him yet didn't know how to get him out from under the horse alone. While Karel seemed to have more compassion for the horse than for his father, he still didn't want to leave him in the rain and mud to die alone.

 

The back and forth storytelling worked two ways for me. One was that it made me guess at circumstances and outcomes, sometimes making me mad, only to resolve them in another spot. The other was to fill in holes and confirm/shatter my suppositions. I was one who didn't believe that Vaclav loved his wife and that that feeling had passed to his sons. Happily, I found that I was wrong. There was at least an intense respect in all of them, and I think they all actually loved the women in their own ways. No, they weren't perfect, but I think it was there. It was also wonderful to find that Vaclav's sons loved their children. We didn't see that much from him, but they got something good from him.

 

Sophie is a very wise woman, one who loves her family and knows her husband is imperfect. She knows about the affairs and realizes that now she must let him know that she knows in order to save them. I loved how she patiently listened, doing the things that needed to be done, but never letting him off the hook. I really like her character.  :smileyhappy:

 

In the end, we find that blood is thicker than water as the boys make amends. Do they understand their story? I think they do in some points, but still don't in others. How can you truly understand being made to plow like a horse? How can you ever understand what their father became? They finally came back together, this time forming a bond that I think is stronger than new rope or anything life can throw at them! I would love to know more about this family after the ending.

 

Ending with Hildi feeding Karel brings us full circle in the novel. We began with Karel's birth and the death of his mother. Then we end were that story left off. Interesting way to end the book.

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
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CAG
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

 


Rachel-K wrote:

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?

 

It took me awhile to piece together Vaclav's death. It is told in bits and pieces and as a reader that gave me an opportunity to imagine all kinds of possibilities.

 

From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?

 

I think I was concerned that Karel may have had something to do with his death and that bothered me.

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

 

I liked the back and forth shift in time. I compared it to meeting someone new and knowing who they are now but wondering about where they came from, what shaped them etc. It felt like getting to know someone, it takes time and listening and piecing things together to know who they really are. I would find myself judging a character by something that happened and then changing my mind as I got deeper into their life. Sometimes I didn't understand how something could have happened in a certain way but later it would make sense to me.

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 

Sophie gave Karel one of the greatest gifts anyone can give, she listened to him. It was her way of understanding her husband and knowing that he was a good man. I think she always had listened to him and that helped him figure things out for himself.

 

Do the Skala boys understand their own stories more clearly than we do?

 

I think they do.

 

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeing baby Karel?

 

It is like coming full circle. I felt that Hildi found comfort in nursing Karel as she had lost her child and Karel found comfort from her, having lost his mother. I thought with death came life.

 


 

CAG
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Deltadawn
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

That was so very well said... love the interpretation!

Melissa_W
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?  From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?

 

From the Knedlick's drunken insinuations, I half-expected Vaclav's death to have resulted from a far more suspicious set-up, liked he'd "fallen" out of the hayloft onto a pitchfork or something.  There were rumors and whispers.  But in the flashback, we see that it was a true accident that Vaclav himself caused by taking old Whiskey out.  Karel is so conditioned to do what his father says that he hesitates far too long while arguing with a hallucinating old man.  I also got the feelng that Karel may have enjoyed watching his father get a taste of his own medicine, to be at the mercy of another human being.

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

 

It does create a situation where the reader thinks they have all the information needed to make a judgement but then a flashback shows we don't quite have all the right bits.  So many of those flashbacks contain information known to only one or two characters present in the scene with no witnesses.

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 

All the major characters in the novel are Catholic (or at least put forth a pretense to Catholicism) and that scene is Karel's true confession.  Before we can ask forgiveness we have to confess our sins.

 

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeding baby Karel?

 

I don't quite understand why this is the final chapter.  I thought the ending of the previous chapter, with Karel on his horse, making the decision to be a better person, to help his brothers and be a good husband and father, the stronger ending to the novel.  I felt like the last chapter didn't impart any new information, just informed the reader that Hildi Knedlick had come, like the midwife said she would, to feed baby Karel.  It brings the novel full circle, back to Karel's birth and his mother's death, but it doesn't do anything for me.
Melissa W.
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Peppermill
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

Enjoyed your responses, Melissa. 

 

Let me play with some thoughts about Hildi.  She must have needed to forgive herself.  It is likely she was not treated kindly by the community.  Yet, in some very real ways, she was Karel's mother, despite his ignoring such in all his fantasies about the mother he was taught that he had killed, the mother his father had loved.  Hildi was too young and not strong enough to bring the woman's touch that was needed to the Skala household, either as simply a sisterly neighbor or as a possible new wife for Vaclav. (Again, she seems to be without family.)

 

Unlike some who see Karel even hoping Villasenor's henchmen track down Raymond, I sense Karel truly intended to help Ray escape successfully.  Sort of an enough already mentality. Thom had asked Karel not to turn Ray over to his father-in-law. (p. 282)  Also sort of a gift of gratitude, of retribution, to Hildi. (And which is part of why her story ends the novel?)

 

Whether Villasenor will be willing to let Raymond go is hard to gauge. He is a tough, savvy old bugger -- "the smoothly assured gait of a man who'd seen enough trouble to have convinced himself, long ago, that walking toward it was no more taxing than was walking away."  But, he did eventually let his wife ride away.  He doesn't want "the law" involved.  If Graciela says certain words as she hands him a cup of coffee....


Melissa_W wrote:

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?  From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?

 

From the Knedlick's drunken insinuations, I half-expected Vaclav's death to have resulted from a far more suspicious set-up, liked he'd "fallen" out of the hayloft onto a pitchfork or something.  There were rumors and whispers.  But in the flashback, we see that it was a true accident that Vaclav himself caused by taking old Whiskey out.  Karel is so conditioned to do what his father says that he hesitates far too long while arguing with a hallucinating old man.  I also got the feelng that Karel may have enjoyed watching his father get a taste of his own medicine, to be at the mercy of another human being.

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

 

It does create a situation where the reader thinks they have all the information needed to make a judgement but then a flashback shows we don't quite have all the right bits.  So many of those flashbacks contain information known to only one or two characters present in the scene with no witnesses.

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 

All the major characters in the novel are Catholic (or at least put forth a pretense to Catholicism) and that scene is Karel's true confession.  Before we can ask forgiveness we have to confess our sins.

 

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeding baby Karel?

 

I don't quite understand why this is the final chapter.  I thought the ending of the previous chapter, with Karel on his horse, making the decision to be a better person, to help his brothers and be a good husband and father, the stronger ending to the novel.  I felt like the last chapter didn't impart any new information, just informed the reader that Hildi Knedlick had come, like the midwife said she would, to feed baby Karel.  It brings the novel full circle, back to Karel's birth and his mother's death, but it doesn't do anything for me.

 

"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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coffee_luvr
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

 


Rachel-K wrote:

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?

I didn't really piece it together until it was revealed.  On some level it seemed justice to me that he died the way he did. 

 

From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?  I expected it would be violent.  I was afraid at one point that we would find out the sons had something to do with his death and I was relieved to know his own folly caused his death.

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

I think the shifts keep the suspense high during the storytelling.  I found some of my expectations and judgments were spot on and in other instances I found I was too quick to judge a character (aren't we all sometimes too quick to judge?) before finding out more in the later chapters.  I found the shifts made it so we could not fully understand a character until we read on.  I think it was a compelling way to tell the story.  I know others did not necessarily enjoy this but I found it intriguing.

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

That was interesting.  To me, I got the sense that Sophie was giving Karel a chance to be truthful and yet, I wasn't sure she really wanted full disclosure.

 

Do the Skala boys understand their own stories more clearly than we do?

Hmmm... that is a very interesting question.  I was going to say yes, but then I think maybe as the reader, we see so much more than the characters so I think I will say by the end, I felt I understood their story better than they did.

 

Why do we end with Hilled, the wet nurse, feeing baby Karel?

I really thought that it was a poignant moment where Stan says his mama is in heaven and when he realizes Hildi's baby is too, he says

"Then maybe......."

So touching! 

The story is so filled with hurt and pain and desperation. What is more desperate than the basic need of being fed and the need of a mother to nurture.  It seemed a very fitting way to end the book. 

 


 

Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. ~Barbara Tuchman
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nfam
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

I hate to say it, but the back and forth story telling loses most of the tension. I found waiting to find out about Vaclav's death until the end rather redundant. We already knew he died. The fact of his destroying Whiskey just added more unpleasant animal stories. 

Sorry to say it, but I wasn't impressed with the story telling. There's a good reason for not using flashbacks. They lose reader interest and decrease the tension. Obviously this author doesn't believe in the dictum. However, for me, it hurt the story.

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MSaff
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

  I'm not completely sure of how I expected Vaclav to have died.  Probably at the hands of one of his sons or one of the many community members that he had scammed and taken their land through betting on the races, that he most definitely fixed, through cheating and injury to those involved.  This mostly occurred to the Dalton boy, as it appeared that in many instances each time the the Dalton's lost land, it was due to the lost of a race or some other instance involving the Skala family, primarily Vaclav. 

  At the end, when we find that Vaclav is still trying to out due his son, Karel, he, Vaclav, strives to show that he is the better man.  Only then do we find out exactly how Vaclav dies.  At that point I did have some sorrowful feelings for Vaclav, as no one should have to go through that type of suffering.  Especially where he can not be helped. 

 

  The back and forth shifting in the story telling at times bothered me, but when I was listening to the characters tell the story and allowed me to get involved with the story, I found it easier to follow and get into.  We did learn more about each character as the story moved along and I personally found the story compelling and though provoking. 

 

  Sophie listening to Karel while she is doing her chores and the such was what I expected.  I can't say why, but this section and her actions are what I expected.  Sophie is a level headed woman, who definitely knows what is going on, and gives Karel and everyone else the opportunity to square things with her.  What I didn't expect such a calm demeaned as far as providing a hot cup of coffee to Karel, while he spilled his guts.  Sophie a a very composed woman. 

 

 

 

 


Rachel-K wrote:

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?

 

From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 

 


 

Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
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Bonnie_C
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

The time shifting makes the story more true to life.   First impressions are generally made when presented with a new situation or being introduced to a new person.  Many times we find these impressions are in error when we learn background and history.  This was especially true of Vaclav.  He was not always the man that was presented in the beginning.  We learned by going back that he did indeed love his wife and was a caring man at one point.  We also learned that Karel did not kill his father.  He may have felt responsible, but the fate of Vaclav was not in his hands.

 

The Scala brothers are at a point in their lives where they can look back and see where they have been and where they are now.  For the 3 oldest they may think they have not traveled very far because they seem to be in the same situation they were as kids.  Their future like their past is in the hands of another.  Karel on the other hand can see that he has made it on his own and his future is his own.

 

Sophie is so very wise.  She is also a strong individual who wants Karel to respect her in the way he should.  When he tries to soften her up by offering to help with the chores she says "You're giving me butter when what I'm wanting is the biscuit."  She also lets Karel know she is aware of his short comings when Karel was with his son and Sophie says "I want you to try thinking about him when thinking about me isn't enough."  Beautiful.

 

Bonnie

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babzilla41
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling


Rachel-K wrote:

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 

 


 Sophie listening to Karel, without saying anything, kept control of the situation.   By keeping things calm, she didn't give him any reason to go storming off.  He was forced to recount the days, take responsibility for his actions - see the hurt in her eyes.  Yet by her bringing him coffee, attending to the children, she was letting him know that she was still there for her family; she let him know he needed her as much, if not more, than she needed him; she made him realize just how much he had to lose.  Sophie brought it home to him later that night, "...I want you to try thinking about him when thinking about me isn't enough."

 

b

 

 

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeding baby Karel?

 

I loved the ending; even though it was profoundly sad.  Karel wonders how to ask the dead to forgive him for finding comfort at another woman's breast or for going on living at all.  What he didn't realize for so long was that he, as an infant, brought comfort to Hildi, "..she pretended that the comfort she felt was her own." and that he gave her reason to go on living (although unfortunately she ended up with a husband who tortured her with making her believe that the loss of her child was God's punishment).  Even little Stan unwittingly gave her hope that his mama in heaven, who also had empty arms, might be "brought" to her baby as she was brought to Karel.

 

I also thought it symbolic that when Karel was born, Hildi's first son died and when Joe died, Karel's son was born.

 

b

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timetravel
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

[ Edited ]

While certainly not the author's story, I kept thinking what  a different person Karel would have been if Hildi could have taken him home to raise. But then my mind goes on rabbit trails!

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

My goodness, if my memory serves me, when Karel was born she had lost a child and so she was his wet nurse. Her husband objected and called her names, among other things. Hildi's husband was abusive. I think later on, she was the mother of the twins, Raymond and Joe. Her husband is the one who put Joe's head through the window scarring his face. The twins were suspected of killing their father. I don't think Karel would have been better off.

Once again, I don't have my book with me and I can't check. I am out of town. On a happy note, tomorrow, my daughter in law is giving birth to twin girls, speaking of twins.

 


timetravel wrote:

While certainly not the author's story, I kept thinking what  a different person Karel would have been if Hildi could have taken him home to raise. But then my mind goes on rabbit trails!


 

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Re: Wake of Forgiveness: Storytelling

[ Edited ]

Rachel_K wrote:

 

How do we piece together the death of Vaclav Skala?

 

Vaclav was racing the horse, Whiskey, along the same route that Karel took when he raced with Graciela. He had done this twice. Vaclav comes up to Karel and says his time was better than Karel's. He urges the boy to ride Whiskey again to see if he could beat his father's time. Karel races the horse but the time didn't beat his dad's. Also, at this point, we read that the horse is lame in one leg. Despite that, Vaclav gets back up on the horse and takes off. Karel waits and they haven't returned. He comes across the horse with an obviously broken leg. He knows that he will have to deal with that. He then comes across his father, laying in the mud and rain. Evidently, the horse fell and rolled over Vaclav as he had a caved in chest. And he was babbling something about the boys needing to get a bale of cotton as it's his birthday. It's winter and no cotton has even been planted yet.

 

From the earlier chapters where it was mentioned, what did you expect to learn about his death?

 

Vaclav was a very cruel man and not well-liked. His death probably brought a sigh of relief to the boys.

 

How does the back and forth shift in storytelling play with our expectations, or judgments, and our understanding of the lives of of the characters?

 

The time shifting exposed the characters in different ages and you could see Karel growing up to be a loving father, one totally different than his father. We learn of the boys growing up to marry Villasenor's daughters, except Karel. We also learn about the Knedlich twins, products of a cruel father, growing up and wreaking havoc with Karel's beer and then the barn fire where Joe lost his life.

Each character took a different route that in the end, tied them together, some for forgiveness, one for running from problems he created.

 

What do you make of the scene where Sophie listens, between her chores, without comment, to Karel relating what's happened in the past days?

 

I think Sophie wanted forgiveness for Karel's infidelities and hoping that it gives her and Karel peace of mind and a better marriage.

 

Do the Skala boys understand their own stories more clearly than we do?

 

I believe they do. They all understand there is a great divide between Karel and them. It takes the fire at Thom's barn to make things right between them. It's a bit stiff but it is a start.

 

Why do we end with Hildi, the wet nurse, feeing baby Karel?

 

To me, it's a new beginning for Karel, his mother's dead and has no milk and they search for an adaquate person to breastfeed the baby. The ending shows that the baby lived only to see the horrors that his dad inflicted on the boys and it shows that Karel came out to be the better one of the boys.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost