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Stephanie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Whole Book Discussion: Community

[ Edited ]
At the beginning of the novel, Leigh believes she likes living in a small town like Danby because she likes the sense of community it offers. Is she really a part of this community? How does Leigh’s relationship to the town change over the summer?

This thread pertains to the entire novel. Please be aware this thread will contain spoilers.

Message Edited by Stephanie on 10-04-2007 08:37 PM
Stephanie
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IBIS
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Re: Whole Book Discussion:

The irony of Leigh thinking she likes small-town life is that she doesn't participate in the sense of community it offers.

She isolates herself from her neighbors. She teaches middle school, and is a terrific teacher. But she doesn't know the parents of her students. When she bumps into them in the grocery store, she is uncomfortable and cuts the friendly, neighborly chit-chat short. She feels threatened when conservative parents question her Honors English reading list. She avoids seeking them out to discuss their differences. When the mother seeks her out to discuss their disagreements, she runs away.

Other than going to the farmers' market, she doesn't participate in the community. She knows none of her neighbors well. She never throws neighborhood parties, like Eva does.
When Eva seeks her out after the accident, Leigh shuns her attempts at solace. She is privy to the gossip that Eva provides (the hilarious Nutters and their "free marriage"!), but Leigh feels that it's prurient gossip, and doesn't take it for the neighborliness it conveys. We find that Eva is truly their friends and invites them to her parties.

After the accident, Leigh is tormented by visions of the town ostracizing her family. Innocent overtures are misinterpreted as criticisms. When Kara starts to feel better, and sits eating an ice cream in the town center, Leigh feels that the entire town is watching, and judging them negatively.

It comes as a surprise to her at the end that the town actually commiserates with the family. No one treats Kara as a pariah. Other than the victim's mother, everyone in town regards her family with compassion and understanding.

It amazed me how truly skewed Leigh's self-perception is throughout the novel.
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
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Re: Whole Book Discussion:

IBIS,

I was surprised by how out-of-touch Leigh was with her town as well. It would take some doing to be a teacher in my town and live here and not interact with students and their parents, at the least.

I would love to talk more about Eva- she's a very interesting secondary character.
Stephanie
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kiakar
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Re: Whole Book Discussion:



Stephanie wrote:
IBIS,

I was surprised by how out-of-touch Leigh was with her town as well. It would take some doing to be a teacher in my town and live here and not interact with students and their parents, at the least.

I would love to talk more about Eva- she's a very interesting secondary character.





Yes, Stephanie, Eva and Leigh's sister. How different they were in the way they saw life. Isn't it so strange how sisters go through the same childhood but come out of it so different with different concepts.
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LauraMoriarty
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Registered: ‎09-11-2007
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Re: Whole Book Discussion:

Ibis,
I think you're right on that Leigh has skewed perceptions - at the beginning of the novel. She loves being a part of a community, but she's too guarded to really let herself be a part of it. I think her upbringing causes the insecurity and social anxiety, but I think the crisis of the accident forces her to see that, as you point out, the town is not full of laughing gossips. People are mostly sympathetic and understanding. I think by the end, her vision - of herself, her duaghter, and her town - is much clearer. For me, the novel really is about Leigh overcoming her distractions and blindspots.

I am curious about what readers think of Eva. For me,she's the personification of gossip, which I don't think of as all bad. But Eva, like gossip, isn't all good either. She isn't nice when talking about the Nutters. But as you point out, at least she invites them to parties. She knows her neighbors. They know her. She talks with them. She's a bit of a drama queen, and she loves to be in the know, but she really hangs in there with Leigh - Leigh takes a long time to understand how much she needs her. When I was writing this,I was thinking that gossip often gets a bad rap. Sometimes it should. But like Eva, it's also the glue of the community.

I'm always a little mystified by people who don't read the local section of their paper. How do you feel a part of something if you don't even know what's happening in the lives of the people you pass on the street or in the grocery store.


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IBIS
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Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Whole Book Discussion:

[ Edited ]
Laura,
I've come to admire Leigh towards the end of the book. She successfully overcame her skewed self-perceptions. Her conversations with Kara are tender and moving. Listening in on Leigh's inner conversation with herself resonated with me.

(p.252) She asks Kara, "'What do you think of that? Of Willow getting implants...?' A long silence followed. Leigh clenched her teeth and kept her eyes on the newspaper. She wasn't Eva. She wasn't the cool mom. She sounded like an imposter to herself....Leigh nodded slowly. WAIT, she told herself. LISTEN."

She took the time to wait and to hear Kara's views. This was a lovely moment of clear-sightedness for Leigh.

I was very glad that Eva continued to be Leigh's friend. Eva was Leigh's lifeline to the community.
(p. 84) "Leigh had to admit, Eva had made Danby more interesting for her. Being her friend was like having hundreds of tiny microphones planted in people's homes and cars, the wires all reading to her ear."

"...Leigh considered, knowing the things Eva told her made her a better person."

Eva had told her about the boy bank teller who had slit his wrists. The next time she was a the bank, the boy "...waited on her, she took extra care to smile at him and say thanks. Later that year, he made a small mistake with her account, and she was very understanding. If Eva had not told her about his slit wrists, she might never have noticed him enough to think about him...."

We all need the positive influences of an Eva who can tune us into our day-to-day world.

Message Edited by IBIS on 10-09-2007 09:40 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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