Fragile Beasts (O'Dell)

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1. Who in this story are the "fragile beasts" of the title...and in what ways are they "beasts," as well as "fragile"?

2. Talk about the way in which this observation about bull fighting, taken from the novel's prologue, establishes the an ongoing motif throughout the novel:

[Candace] immediately embraced the almost carnal pleasure and the horror of watching a lone man using elegance and restraint to control a dangerous wild animal, to take the creature’s fear and anger and his own fear and anger and turn it into something solemn and beautiful and for one brief shining moment, something heroic for both man and beast.

3. What kind of character is Candace Jack—how would you describe her? What prompts her to take the boys in after their father's death?

4. Talk about the two brothers, Kyle and Klint, and their relationship with one another, as well as with their dead father. In what ways are the brothers different from one another?

5. What are the rumors surrounding Candace and her wild bull. What's it doing there—and can you discern the bull's thematic significance to the novel?

6. Luis says of Candace, "She's not hollow, broken, numb, or hardened; she's simply unreachable." In what way has Candace allowed the past to trap her?

7. Talk about Luis, one of the books most intriguing characters. Why is he so devoted to Candace? In what way does he claim that she is his "wife"?

8. Talk about the role that the Spanish culture plays in this story. In what way does she connect Spain with the local of the novel, Western Pennsylvania?

9. Don't you just love to hate Rhonda? What about Cam Jack?

10. Talk about the issues of class that O'Dell ferrets out in her novel—between those who once owned the mines and those who worked them.

11. What do you make of the prejudice toward scholastic achievement? Consider this sentence "Everyone I know equates being smart with being stuck up." Is that attitude peculiar to this stretch of geography...or is it prevalent in society as a whole? What is it based on?

12. What was your experience reading this work? Some reviewers have talked about its darkness, others the humor. What about the novel's ending—did you find it satisfying?

13. Have you read any of Tawni O'Dell's other novels? Is so, how does this one compare? If you haven't, are you inspired to read more of her books?

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