5. How were Jake and Arthur affected by their family dynamic? Did their mother pamper Jake too much? Did their father favor Arthur because he was easier to manage, or was Jake difficult to manage because of his father’s favoritism?
Although the family dynamics did impact both Arthur and Jake, I think their personalities were who they were (i.e., heredity over environmental). Their family life did, of course, bring out their characteristics. One would have thought that Arthur would have been jealous or rebellious because of Jake's behavior, but instead his natural goodness shone through and his goal of pleasing his mother outshone what would have been just as normal of a response of sibling rivalry.
Their mother did pamper Jake after the difficulties she had before his birth and his health problems later, but I don't know if it influenced him that much.
I thought their father tried to be fair and to respect his wife's need to protect Jake, but I think Jake would have had just as strong of headstrong determination regardless of the family interactions.
6. How are the characters shaped by the novel’s setting? What do the natural surroundings of the town mean to them? What separates those who want to escape from those who bask in the town’s familiarity?
The remoteness of the town and its harsh winters would make one more dependent on self-resourcefulness. Ian's mother couldn't stand the remoteness and couldn't cope with it. Maybe if she had internet she could have met her social needs without running off with the teacher!
I think that people who were self-confident and didn't have a high need for social events did well in the remoteness of the town and its familiarity whereas for those such as Ian's mother who needed a bigger world found Straun strangling.
7. Take a look at the men's relationships with their mothers. As a pre-schooler, Arthur "already knew that his mother's happiness depended on Jake's well-being" (p. 28), while school-boy Jake "had great confidence in his mother's ability to win arguments on his behalf" (p. 36). Ian's opinion of his mother shortly before she left was that she "had two moods nowadays, absent or annoyed, and whichever one she was in he invariably found he preferred the other" (p. 13). What do these relationships look like to you?
Arthur's attitude towards his mother shows his natural love of others and desire to please those who were the most important in his life. Jake's attitude towards his mother fits well with his general attitude of using others to help him satisfy his yearnings. Ian's assessment of his mother seemed right on target. I was pleased that on his own he opted to stay with his father rather than go with his mother. He seemed to have a good sense of fairness and ability to evaluate the reality of things going on in his life.
8. Quote something from the book that captured your attention, and tell us what you thought of it.
I didn't note any quotes from the book yet.
9. Can you relate to any of the characters? In what way?
It is uncanny how similar the brothers are to my youngest nephews. The older one is so sensitive and kind and is having a major struggle with school (I think the constant testing and labeling in the No Child Left Behind movement makes life more miserable for those who have difficulties in school) while his younger brother (named Jake!) is brilliant, high energy, and tends to be full of mischief (he does seem to be calming down a bit though).