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Reading Group Questions for The Company Car
1) In what ways is Emmie like his father and in what ways is he like his mother? Where do you see this in the novel?
2) How do Emmie's similarities to his parents illuminate your understanding of Emmie's relationship with his wife? What parallels exist between the two couples?
3) How did you respond to the character of Dorie, Emmie's wife? Did you like her? Did you find her sympathetic? To what extent did Emmie's portrayal of his mother as the primary caretaker of the family-alone with seven children while her husband is on the road or drinking-affect your view of his wife's resistance to assuming that role, her desire for independence and escape? To what extent did Emmie's sympathy for his mother extend to his wife?
4) How does the Zbigniew Herbert epigraph, "It's good what happened, it's good what's going to happen, even what's happening right now is okay" encapsulate the novel's themes?
5) Despite their struggles, what are the qualities that make Wally and Susan Marie's marriage work? Does the marriage hold together because of social mores about divorce, habit or momentum, or something more?
6) In the chapter, "Loose Lips Sink Ships," Emmie's retrospective narration allows the reader to experience his childhood perception of the bar. Point to particular examples of how the author uses point of view to accomplish this. How does this technique affect you as the reader?
7) How is change and/or the passage of time treated in the novel? How do the various characters deal with change? Wally? Emmie? Dorie? Susan Marie?
8) What is Emmie's attitude towards his family story? Is he nostalgic? Reverential? Critical? Matter-of-fact? What does the way in which he tells us the story reveal about his character?
9) Trace the situations in which the issue of fidelity emerges in the novel. How do questions of marital fidelity / infidelity connect with themes of loyalty, independence and personal identity in the novel?
10) What series of events bring the Czabecks to leave the suburbs? What major events and/or details stand out from their years on the farm? What similarities exist between the two?
11) In the first chapter of the novel, photographs of Wally and Susan Marie as young people are described in great detail. How do these descriptions prepare us for the stories and characters that are to come? How are they connected to the novel's themes?
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