Friends' Book Discussion Series
Please join us for a discussion of Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver on Wednesday, April 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the small meeting room on the second floor. The talk is the penultimate in the series on the theme of family relations in Western literature, sponsored by the West End Library Friends. The presenter is Ori Z. Soltes, resident scholar in theology and fine arts at Georgetown University.
Synopsis and discussion questions:
When a Cherokee tribal lawyer comes to the door to claim Taylor’s illegally adopted Indian daughter, Turtle, Taylor and her six-year-old flee across the West. As their lives skirt the edge of poverty and despair, Turtle becomes emotionally unmoored, and Taylor begins to question the cost of flight to the daughter she loves. And the reader is confronted with the question of how family relations are best defined: by blood-line or love-line?
1. This is the first of the works we have read this spring that specifically addresses the issue of mothers and daughters. How does that change the dynamic of family relations, if at all? How is the dynamic affected by the fact that Turtle is a small child, also a first in our current series?
2. This is also the first work in our series where the notion of “family” as a biological reality is not a simple given. How does the non-bloodline nature of the relationship between Taylor and Turtle alter the dynamic, if at all?
3. As always, part of the range of “family relation” issues stems from contexts of time, place and circumstance. The story is set in our own time (specifically, the 1990s in the United States). How do relations between First Nation people and Euro-American people at the end of the 20th century affect matters—and how might things have been different if, say, the story had been set in the time of Turgenev or Faulkner (or the time of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!)? What if the second claimant to Turtle were her biological father rather than her biological mother?
4. How is the broader question of biological and adoptive family relations and the establishment of “proper” or “correct” or “factual” matters regarding who owns whom and who is responsible for whom affected by the issues referenced in question #3?
5. Put another way: can one mandate proper love, and how does one adjudicate between two equally compelling causes?
6. What role does truth play in the story—what kinds of truth are there out there?
7. How does Kingsolver interweave different levels of both generational (vertical) and same- and other-gender relations (horizontal) to make for a more complex and therefore more satisfying story?
8. How does Kingsolver use irony—and which kind of irony? How does it compare with the others we’ve read so far?
9. What is the treble significance of the title of the book?
10. In the real world, how might the story have ended otherwise, and why? (How is the author able—is the author able—to be a more effective creator of people than God is?)