Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Windfalls "Beyond the End of Everything" Discussion Questions

Before I looked at this discussion questions for this section, I was wondering what the questions might be. For a not particularly uplifting book so far, this section seemed especially bleak and hopeless.

1. Travis ~ The battery in his talking toy is already starting to lose strength. This is a biggie, so don't fail to notice it. Cerise noticed the toy, but did not question why the battery was running down so quickly.
It sounded a little slow, the voice wearier than it had been the day before. Even though Travis would probably have another tantrum, Cerise hoped that meant the battery Melody had got for it was finally wearing out. She hated that toy. (p. 150)

I think I may have missed this question here. I got the impression that Melody have replaced the battery in Travis's toy with the battery from the fire alarm, even though her mother told her specifically not to do that. Since that battery had already been in the fire alarm for some time maybe, it would run out more quickly.

2. Melody ~ Melody burned herself on "the red spiral of the element" (pp. 133-134), just as Cerise had burned herself "against the hot edge of the iron" (pp. 21-22), leaving "stripes on Cerise's wrists [that]turned to scabs" (p. 30). Why do people do things like this? A young woman told me once that cutting herself was less painful than her life, but I don't understand that thinking at all.

Maybe because it is easier to have some physical pain to concentrate on, even for a brief while, than having to think and be present in the unbearable pain that is their life. I have been told, by people and in school, that to them, it is a physical outlet for the emotional and mental pain they are unable to express in words or otherwise.

3. NICU ~ When Ellen was born (pp. 137-146), she was rushed to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Have you ever been in an NICU? Tell us about it.

The medical university where I went to grad school is attached to a large hospital downtown and I had several clerkships during school at that hospital as well as other hospitals in the area. I also have worked at that hospital since I graduated. So I have been in their NICU and PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) as well as the attached children's hospital during my clerkships and making deliveries for my job. It is always very sad to see the really sick children and babies, no matter how many times you see it. The air always seems filled with emotion, both the sadness and worry of the parents and their (and the staff's) hope.

4. Respirator ~ One of my granddaughters (not the one I mentioned last week) was in the NICU for the first days of her life and then was on a respirator, like Ellen. If you have experienced anything like this, please share.
The first three days of Ellen's life, the alarm on her respirator rang so many times that Anna got almost used to the sickening flush of terror that swept over her each time it sounded. (p. 153)

Again, training and working in a hospital, I have seen babies, children, and adults hooked up to life sustaining machinery. With respirators, there is an odd quality to seeing someone breath so regularly since one breathing on their own isn't quite evenly regular, even when sleeping.

5. Cerise ~ After the fire in the trailer (pp. 157-160), Travis suffered "respiratory insufficiency" (p. 164) before he died (p. 171). That's hell in itself for a mother, but can you put yourself in Cerise's shoes enough to understand what she did after that?
Someone was speaking from the doorway. It was the young nurse ... Timidly she said, "We've called Travis's father, Ms. Johnson. And sent for the social worker and the chaplain. They'll be here any minute to talk to you. Is there anything -- should I stay with you until they come?"

Savagely Cerise shook her head. She didn't want the nurse to stay with her, didn't want to have to see Jake or the chaplain or the social worker, didn't want to have to do any of the things words were used to do -- explain, defend, excuse, or soothe. She wanted to be as alone in the room as she was in her anguish, wanted only to scream and howl and moan. But the nurse's question had diminished her to silence. ...

She bent to kiss him [Travis], but the thought came that she was kissing him good-bye, and her body convulsed, propelling her back from that abyss. She turned and stumbled from the room ... (p. 172).

Yes and no. Yes, I think I can understand her reasons for feeling this way and wanting these things having been in situations where I was overwhelmed by sadness and loss. But no, because I don't have children and I don't think anyone who hasn't lost a child can imagine what it is like to lose one.

6. Homeless ~ What would it be like to know, suddenly, that you were quite literally homeless? What would you do?
It was not until she stood on the street that she realized she had nowhere to go. ... She began to walk ... (p. 173).

While I can't imagine a scenario where this could happen in my life as it is currently (too careful financial, a lot of family), that's not really the point of the question. Were I in a situation similar to Cerise, I think I'd be stunned and devastated. Cerise tries to go to the one people left she loves, Melody. I think I'd try to start over one small step at a time.

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