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Readers’ Guide

Arrange a Book Group Visit With Christina

I love meeting with book groups—it’s been one of the most rewarding parts of having my first book published. I can meet with San Francisco Bay Area book groups in person, and other groups by Skype or phone. Please email me using the address below; put “Book Group Visit” in the subject line and let me know some possible meeting times.

Email: info at Christina Sunley dot com

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Discussion Group Questions

1. This is in many ways a story about an immigrant community and the experience of living far from one’s homeland. How do the Icelandic immigrants at Gimli remain connected to their Icelandic heritage? How do Freya’s ideas about her ancestry evolve throughout the story?

2. Do you think Freya is more like her mother or Birdie? What aspects of each does she inherit?

3. Do you think Anna is right to keep Freya at a distance from Gimli as a girl, and from her Icelandic heritage in general? Do you think she’s better off for having been raised by Anna?

4. What role do myths play for the characters in this story? Why do you think they are so important to the Icelanders and the Icelandic emigrants?

5. Do you think Birdie has Freya’s best interests at heart during the time they spend together? Is she able to love Freya? Do you see any ways in which she’s a good influence?

6. What are the differences between Icelandic and Canadian (or American) culture in the novel? In what ways is Freya American? In what ways is she Icelandic?

7. Consider the passage about adulthood on page 197 that begins, “Before my mother died...” What does adulthood mean to the different characters in the story, to Freya, Birdie, Anna? How does Freya’s definition of it shift during the story?

8. What is the significance of the story of the tricking of Gylfi (pp 203-206)? Why do you think the author based the story’s title on it? What are some of the secrets and tricks that change the course of Freya’s life?

9. Why is Freya reluctant to return to Gimli for Sigga’s 100th birthday?

10. Late in the story it’s revealed that Freya has cyclothymia, a mild form of bipolar disorder. Was there evidence of the illness in her behavior throughout the story? Have you had any contactwith bipolar disorder in your own life? Did you find the portraits of Birdie and Freya convincing?

11. How does it affect the reading experience to have the narrator addressing her imagined cousin? Why do you think the author chose this method for this story?

12. In the end, how do you think Freya feels about Birdie? Does Birdie deserve to be forgiven? Do you have more sympathy for her, or for Anna?