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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Tall Pine Polka

1. Does Tall Pine, Minnesota seem like a place you would like to live, or just visit? Which option would you choose and why?

2. How does Lee end up in Tall Pine from a penthouse apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago? Why does she stay?

3. Slim is plagued by survivor's guilt, among other things, as a result of his war experiences. Discuss the damage he has sustained and how the healing process works for him.

4. Do you think Big Bill leads Lee on in the beginning, since he is aware that she loves him in a very different way than he loves her?

5. Why do Fenny and Big Bill hide their relationship from Lee for so long? What do you think of Frau Katte's decision to tell Lee herself?

6. How do Fenny and Lee overcome their differences? Do you think you could do the same?

7. "She hums when she's at the grill, Bill--did you notice?" says Pete as he is listing off what he loves about Lee. Discuss the things--big and small--that draw us to other people.

8. Do you think Pete would have given Lee the shoes and declared his love, had he not been interrupted by the appearance of her gun-toting ex-husband? Do you think he enjoyed the dream more than the reality of love?

9. Discuss the reasons why so many characters in this novel have a difficult time expressing their love. Why is it sometimes so hard to break through and say, "I love you"?

10. Why is Mae Little Feather opposed to Big Bill and Fenny getting married? Do you think her objections are totally unfounded? Why does she change her mind?

11. "Movie stars are regular people," says Slim. "People just get a kick out of believing they're not." Discuss the culture of celebrity in American society and how it can distort and damage lives.

12. Did the entertainment and media characters in this novel, such as Boyd Burch, Lorenz Ferre, Marcy Mincus, and Gerry Dale, remind you of any real-life figures? If so, who?

13. Fenny is a very reluctant celebrity. How do you think you would handle being thrust into the spotlight as Fenny is?

14. What do you think prompted the ornery director Malcolm Edgely's transformation on the day he died? Would it have lasted if he had not been struck down by a heart attack?

15. How do Fenny and Big Bill's fears--hers of traveling and his of driving--affect their lives? How do they overcome them? Have you ever suffered from such debilitating anxieties?

16. The denizens of Tall Pine and the visitors from Hollywood view each other with mutual distrust and suspicion in the beginning. How do their opinions of each other, once clouded by stereotypes and ignorance, change (or not) over the course of the novel?

17. Who is your favorite character? Why?

18. Why did your group select this novel?

19. How does this work compare with other works your group has read? What will you be reading next?

20. Do you think your reading group offers a kind of selfmade community like that found at Lee's cafe? How was your group formed? Why do you think it has stayed together?

21. What do you think is the secret ingredient in a cup of O'Delight coffee?

The Tall Pine Polka
by Lorna Landvik

  • Publication Date: May 29, 2001
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0449003701
  • ISBN-13: 9780449003701