WHOLENESS OF A BROKEN HEART
by Riverhead Books / Penguin Putnam
can travel to speak at conferences, and occasionally meets with reading
groups by speakerphone. If you would like to host her, email her at
KatieSinger at katiesinger.com.
Guide for Group Discussion
- What does the
title mean to you?
- In trying to
understand what her relationship with her mother has given her, Hannah
says, "I needed to see that neither mothering nor loving has
its source in the woman who gave birth to me." What does she
mean by this? Do you agree with her?
- What qualities
does Celia receive from her mother and grandmothers? What qualities
does Hannah receive?
- How does the
institution of marriage change through the generations of this family?
How do peoples' expectations of marriage change?
- Channa notes
that the Ten Commandments don't instruct us to love or obey our parents,
but to honor them. What's the difference between loving, honoring,
and obeying? How could a daughter or son who does not love her or
his parents express honor?
- Katie Singer
has said that in writing her novel, she noticed the juxtaposition,
in the early thirties, of the beginning of an unprecedented rise in
many American Jews' standard of living with the beginning of the annihilation
of the Old World. How is each generation in this family affected by
the pogroms? By the Holocaust? How is the family affected by the acquisition
of wealth? Do you think the acquisition of wealth juxtaposed to the
Holocaust affects them?
- After witnessing
her children murdered by Nazis from her vantage point in the Other
World, Leah waits for them to join her; but they don't. She wonders,
"when a soul dies by fire or gunshot, does it go to the Other
World a different way? Does it go to yet another world?" How
might you answer Leah's questions?
- Ida says, "A
woman can carry a whole world." How are the women's lives in
America easier and/or harder than the lives of women in the Old Country?
Given the characters in this novel, how would you define a strong
- After Leah asks
Raisl to have sex with the Cossack so that Moishe could leave Latvia
a free man, she wonders, "If one good deed leads to another,
where would an aveyre lead -- a sin such as this?" How
does Leah's action alter the course of her son's life? Of Raisl's?
Can you trace the results of Leah's action in the family's later generations?
- What connections
do you see between the cover image and the novel?
Copyright © 1999-2007 by Katie Singer. All rights reserved.