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Stephanie
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Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

Is Gary a better parent than Leigh? In what ways does his relationship with Justin mirror Leigh’s relationship with Kara? What is it about each child that brings out such different responses from both Gary and Leigh?

This thread pertains to the entire novel. Please be aware this thread will contain spoilers.
Stephanie
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IBIS
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

We all gravitate towards, and feel more comfortable with others, who have similar qualities that we recognize in ourselves.

Both Gary and Leigh love their children, there's no doubt about that.

Gary is physically comfortable in his own skin; he isn't a worrier, or overly anxious. He relates well with Kara's popularity, her athletic prowess, and her self-confidence. Gary and Kara are very comfortable in each other's presence, and understand each other effortlessly.

Leigh is a kind, sensitive and insightful mother; she commiserates with Justin's isolation at school, and his physical timidity. I can see how she and Justin are very comfortable with each other, and understand each other on an emotional level.

Justin feels uncomfortable when Gary wants to play basketball with him. He wants to please his dad, but wishes that Gary saw him as the timid, emotionally insightful little boy he truly is.

Kara feels uncomfortable with Leigh because she senses that Leigh doesn't relate to her popularity, her self-confidence. Kara misinterprets Leigh's responses as dislike; Leigh wonders why Kara doesn't respond to her, and it would surprise her if she knew that Kara thought Leigh disliked her .
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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kiakar
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting



Stephanie wrote:
Is Gary a better parent than Leigh? In what ways does his relationship with Justin mirror Leigh’s relationship with Kara? What is it about each child that brings out such different responses from both Gary and Leigh?

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




It is strange how Kara is teamed up with Gary her father and Justin with his mother.
The very opposite of what you would think as a close relationship. But its so true,in this case, Leigh relates to Justin because she was very unhappy in her childhood, she had no friends since she went from town to town and so she can see how Justin feels. Gary, I don't remember if it says, but he is outgoing and probably was popular in school and Kara is that and more. I think they are good parents but just very different and both coming from a different place in life. We all make many mistakes parenting. Leigh's mother was strange. She gave all she could give, just a living for her and her sister, she didn't have any love or couldn't communicate with her children. Leigh wanted so bad to make up for that with her children. She wanted closeness with them. Her sister saw their childhood as very different than Leigh saw it. Leigh's sister was kindhearted and didn't hold hostile thoughts about their Mom the way Leigh saw their mom and their childhood.
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IBIS
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

[ Edited ]
kiakar, you hit the nail right on the head. Leigh's blind spot about herself--that she doesn't have to be the PERFECT mother. She desperately wants to break new ground. She does not want to repeat the mistakes that her mother made.

On p. 166, she works very hard to get a college education..."She was breaking new ground. No Voe or Hesse had carried books around a campus before, not as far as she knew. She was the turning point in her family line, the beginning of something good."

Despite her successes, she still feels inadequate. Her feelings of failure as a mother starts right after Kara is born. She has trouble breastfeeding, and has a hard time pumping her milk.

(p.172) "It unnerved her, that first failure, as a mother. She wondered what else she would do wrong. ...She was always so tired, so worried. She felt sore and thin-skinned. She felt like a teenage babysitter, waiting for the real mother to come home."

And even though Pam was always making bad decisions, Leigh saw what a great, loving and patient mother Pam was to her own sons.

(p.160) "Pam was a tireless mother. She didn't get frustrated when Ellis cried...She carried him around in a sling...in the Laundromat, in the grocery store, in the trailer, in the long walks into town."

Message Edited by IBIS on 10-05-2007 12:22 AM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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kiakar
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting



IBIS wrote:
kiakar, you hit the nail right on the head. Leigh's blind spot about herself--that she doesn't have to be the PERFECT mother. She desperately wants to break new ground. She does not want to repeat the mistakes that her mother made.

On p. 166, she works very hard to get a college education..."She was breaking new ground. No Voe or Hesse had carried books around a campus before, not as far as she knew. She was the turning point in her family line, the beginning of something good."

Despite her successes, she still feels inadequate. Her feelings of failure as a mother starts right after Kara is born. She has trouble breastfeeding, and has a hard time pumping her milk.

(p.172) "It unnerved her, that first failure, as a mother. She wondered what else she would do wrong. ...She was always so tired, so worried. She felt sore and thin-skinned. She felt like a teenage babysitter, waiting for the real mother to come home."

And even though Pam was always making bad decisions, Leigh saw what a great, loving and patient mother Pam was to her own sons.

(p.160) "Pam was a tireless mother. She didn't get frustrated when Ellis cried...She carried him around in a sling...in the Laundromat, in the grocery store, in the trailer, in the long walks into town."

Message Edited by IBIS on 10-05-2007 12:22 AM




Yes, I love your post, but IBIS; why does Pam's outlook and look backwards so differ from Leigh's. They both grew up in the same home.
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IBIS
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

____________________________________________
kiakar wrote:
Yes, I love your post, but IBIS; why does Pam's outlook and look backwards so differ from Leigh's. They both grew up in the same home.
_________________________________________________

That's a great question: why does Pam respond so differently to their similar upbringing?
We see it all the time -- the same parents, the same gene pool, the same upbringing, the same core values, the same education-- everything equal, yet siblings turn out very differenly from each other.

Is it nature or is it nurture? Do our personalities, our basic human nature, dictate the persons we become. Or does nurturing by either positive or negative forces override our basic natures? Are we doomed by bad parenting? Or can we free ourselves from negative nurturing?

That is a complex question; one answer is that Pam's nature is much more placid. She is not as angry, or anxious, or a worrier, as Leigh is. She is more forgiving about her mother; she doesn't judge her mother as harshly as Leigh does. She is by nature much more tolerant. Pam was older. She left her mother's influence sooner to have her baby and live in a trailer. Leigh was younger, and therefore more vulnerable.

What I love about this story is that it's a real "tuning fork"; it's resonates with so many of us; many readers have dug deep into themselves, and posted wonderfully personal responses, all very different, and all very interesting.
IBIS

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kiakar
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

You are right,IBIS, this is a great book and its so close to home for alot of us. Such a deep emotional story th at most people can relate too.
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LauraMoriarty
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

Thank you all again for your thoughtful, careful reading of the book. I did intend for Pam and Leigh to have very different reactions to the same childhoods. But I don't necessarily see Leigh as the more damaged one. In fact, at the beginning of the book, you could argue that Leigh is the sister who more successfully survived it: she's got a career, a stable family . . . she hasn't had many of the problems Pam has had. Leigh herself thinks of herself as the 'one who made it,' and she wonders if her success comes from having watched Pam flounder, especially in her relationships with men. But, as Ibis pointed out, Pam does have a more placid, calm nature, and after Kara's accident, Kara turns to her aunt, not her mother, for support, and a wounded Leigh starts to reconsider which sister actually survived their mother better. But I think you could still argue that Leigh has some strong points. Yes, she is anxious and insecure, but she also pulled herself up from a difficult childhood by sheer force of will, and managed to to create a stable life for herself and a children. Leigh isn't as 'soft' as Pam, but I admire her strength. She isn't as forgiving of their mother as Pam is, but I wonder if this refusal to forgive everything is what makes Leigh stand up for herself in ways that Pam hasn't always, sometimes to the detriment of herself and her children.


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Stephanie
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

It seemed to me that Pam had a compassionate personality that gave her the ability to see into her mother's unhappiness in a way that Leigh could not. Pam understood how their mother felt- perhaps she felt the same way sometimes in her own life, since it did mirror their mother's life in certain ways. Pam's relationships with men were her real downfall - and there I saw an insatiable need to be loved, by whomever was going to offer it. Leigh, doing well in school, at least was not criticised by their mother the way Pam was. Pam was also told, often enough, how she would turn out, and she did fulfill that prophesy.
Stephanie
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vivico1
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Parenting

I think Laura and all of you have covered it pretty well, so I will just say ditto to you all :smileywink:
Vivian
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