Book Club Discussion Questions - a story
by A. Publisher
1. Describe the structure of the story. Why does the author open with Hans moving to New York City and then quickly jump into the future with Chuck's death and then jump back? Do you think these flashbacks and forward leaps relate to the narrative arc of the story? Is this simply how we tell stories? When you tell a story do you tell it chronologically? Why?
2. Childhood often slips into the story - that of both Hans and Chuck. Early on in the story, Hans mentions that he doesn't connect to himself as a child ("I, however, seem given to self-estrangement"), then proceeds to produce numerous memories of his childhood and of his mother. How is this reconnecting with his heritage and his past important to the story? How is Chuck often the catalyst for these memories?
3. Chuck is more connected to his heritage than Hans. He socializes with others from the West Indies; he's married to a woman from his birth country, etc. How do flashbacks to his childhood differ from Hans's and how do they affect the story as a whole?
4. How does nostalgia play into the story? Who is nostalgic and for what? Why does the storyteller open the novel with someone being nostalgic for New York City?
5. Discuss the title. What does it mean and what do you think it refers to?
6. Chuck's motto is "Think fantastic." How does this both help and hinder him? Can you create an appropriate motto for Hans? How about for yourself?
7. What does the United States represent for Hans and Chuck? How are their relationships with their new country similar, and also polar opposites?
8. How are both Han's and Chuck's experiences typical of American dream of immigrant stories? Compare the story to other stories of the immigrant experience or to what you imagine immigrating to a new country to be like.
9. Is the American Dream the same after 9/11? How are Americans both united and divided after 9/11? How is the world of the story particular to the United States after 9/11?
10. Describe the narrator's voice. Do you trust and like Hans as a narrator? Do you sympatize with him and understand his motives? Do you identify with him?
11. Describe the Chelsea Hotel when Hans lives. How is it a character in the novel? How are the various inhabitants and the oddness of the place appealing and comforting to Hans?
12. Discuss the scene in which the author and his protagonist engage in "fisting." What is metafiction? Does it feel good?
13. What is Han's relationship with his mother? How does the relationship continue to affect him after his mother's death? How does it affect his being a father?
14. Discuss the theme of male friendship in the novel and its connection to sports.
15. This story is also the story of a marriage. Why is Hans and Rachel's marriage falling apart? What brings them together again in the end?
16. Discuss the theme of betrayal and forgiveness in the story. How do both Rachel and Hans betray each other and why? What about Chuck? Do the characters ever lead themselves astray and betray themselves? Does America betray both Chuck and Hans in the end?