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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Lost Men

1. What do you think of the dual voices --- those of Westen and his father, Xin --- the author uses to tell the story in Lost Men? Would the novel have been different if the story were told from only one point of view? Additionally, why do you think the author chose to begin and end the novel in the third person, and what is the effect?

2. “Each season offers a new identity. When you live here long enough, you learn to do the same” (page 11). Consider Westen’s statement. Does it reveal anything about his personality? What do you think it means in the context of what happens in Lost Men?

3. Talk about the relationships Westen has with the men in his life: his father, his uncle Cain, Gideon. How are these relationships different from, and similar to, one another?

4. Did it surprise you that after their trip to China, at the end of which Westen forgave his father, that the two men spoke only twice in the next year? What kept them apart in this way? What did you think of the scene in which Westen travels to see his father upon learning of his terminal illness?

5. Water is a recurrent symbol in Lost Men. Discuss some instances where water is prominent, and their significance. What other symbols are employed in the novel?

6. Why do you think Xin hides his illness from Westen, despite the many times on their trip to China when he bares his soul to his son --- including his revelation about the vicious attack on Celia, and the question of Westen’s paternity?

7. While on the Great Wall, why won’t Westen fully open the blue velvet box that Mrs. Cheung gave to him when he was a boy? What do you think held him back?

8. Though the title is Lost Men, in what ways are the women in the novel equally important to the story?

9. When Westen reveals to his father his nearly neutral sexuality, Xin gives Westen his blessing to find love, regardless of the gender of the person. Were you surprised by Xin’s reaction? How did you expect him to respond?

10. Xin communicates most intimately with Westen through letters; Westen writes heartfelt letters to his aunt Catherine from China; Westen’s mother has written a letter that reveals who Westen’s father really is. Consider the acts of letter-writing in Lost Men and the freedom they allow these characters.

11. What are the consequences of the secrets Xin and Westen have kept in their lives?

12. What does it mean to be Chinese (in Westen’s case), or to be of another ethnicity? Does DNA matter more in determining a person’s heritage, or is it the environment in which they are raised?

13. Were you surprised by what happens after Westen receives his mother’s letter?

Lost Men
by Brian Leung

  • Publication Date: February 26, 2008
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • ISBN-10: 0307351653
  • ISBN-13: 9780307351654