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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


1. Discuss the author’s use of language. What techniques does she employ to take the reader inside a mentally challenged mind?

2. At several points in the novel, various characters use the word “retarded.” How do you feel about this word and other words we use to describe the mentally and physically challenged?

3. Gram tells Perry that his brother David is weak, and that “the weak are more dangerous in the end.” Discuss the character of David and his interactions with Perry. Is Gram’s warning justified?

4. Perry calls Gram “a good teacher. She didn’t mind that I was slow, but lots of people do.” How do Gram’s lessons prepare him for the challenges he faces throughout the novel?

5. Keith and Cherry, Perry’s closest friends, have both lived traumatic lives—Keith served in Vietnam, Cherry has been abused by her father. Why do these characters form such a close bond with Perry? In what ways do their life experiences inform their relationships with him?

6. Which character are you most drawn to? Why?

7. Perry views things in highly literal terms, as illustrated when he refuses to spread part of Gram’s ashes in Hawaii because “she needs to be kept together.” In what ways does this literalism prove to be an asset? In what ways is it a deficit?

8. Perry says that Gary “was always nice to me before, but now he listens… Money has made the slow part of me not so important.” Discuss the relationship between Gary and Perry. In what ways does it change after Perry wins the lottery?

9. Perry’s vocabulary words are a motif throughout the novel. Discuss these words in terms of the chapters in which they appear and the story as a whole. What symbolic or metaphoric insights do they offer?

10. What do you think of Perry’s decision at the end of the novel? What would you have advised him to do?

11. Does money buy happiness? Does it buy love? What do you think Perry’s life would have been like without it?

by Patricia Wood

  • Publication Date: June 3, 2008
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade
  • ISBN-10: 0425222209
  • ISBN-13: 9780425222201