1. During the twenty-five years she is in Palermo, Rosa receives only two letters from her mother. How would you describe their relationship, both before Rosa journeys to Palermo and after she returns home?
2. After Bartolomeo's death, Rosa retreats into la cucina for solace and then leaves for Palermo. Why do you think she chose to leave Castiglione and her family? Why does she not return for such a long period of time?
3. Rosa and l'Inglese are instantly attracted to one another. What is it that l'Inglese sees in Rosa that she does not see in herself?
4. Compare Rosa's love for and relationship with Bartolomeo to that of l'Inglese. How does each relationship alter Rosa's life and what does she learn from each one?
5. Rosa knows next to nothing about l'Inglese's background or his personal life. What exactly is their relationship based on? In one instance she replies to l'Inglese, "'Yes, I trust you,' I said, although I was not entirely convinced that I did" (pg. 165). What do you think this means?
6. Shortly before l'Inglese disappears, Rosa says, "For the first time in my life I was completely happy. I had the feeling that if I were to die tomorrow I would be satisfied with my life; I had known what it was to experience life and to experience love" (pg. 167). Does she still believe this after l'Inglese disappears?
7. "I mourned for l'Inglese, for the time we had had together, and for myself: for my true self, which I had become with him, quite suddenly, in a blaze of color like a butterfly, and which I would never be again (pg. 186)." Do you think Rosa is selling herself short by believing that she could only be her "true self" when she was with l'Inglese? When she returns home, Rosa learns some surprising things about her loved ones, but what does she learn about herself?
8. How does the Sicilian setting contribute to the story? Can you imagine the novel having been set in another location, even another part of Italy?
9. Discuss la cucina and how it plays out in the story. What is your favorite moment in the story that you think best reflects the essence of la cucina?
10. Discuss the ending of the novel. Does l'Inglese indeed return, or is Rosa having a daydream? What, in your opinion, is the novel really about?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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