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Burgess Boys (Strout) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to begin a discussion for The Burgess Boys:

1. Talk about how Bob, who at the age of four was held accountable for his father's death. To what degree has that childhood trauma shaped his subsequent life? The family never mentions the fatal accident. Why?

2. What about the personalities and life trajectories of the three siblings—and the differences between them? Start with Jim and Bob; then Bob and his twin sister, Susan. How do they feel about one another—and how do they treat each other? How do those relationships change by the end of the story?

3. What do you think of Helen? Are you sympathetic to her?

4. This novel is very much about place and sense of home. How do the physical manifestations of the sibling's homes, their houses or apartments, reflect their inner lives? How do the brothers view their Maine hometown...and how does Susan view New York City? How do the Somalis view Maine and their new (perhaps temporary) home in Shirley Falls.

5. How has Shirley Falls changed over the years since the three siblings grew up and the two brothers moved away? Is Shirley Falls typical of small-town America?

6. What prompts Zach to throw the pig's head into the mosque? He later explains his action as a "dumb joke." What do you think of Zach? Does a 19-year-old boy deserve to be arrested and charged with a Federal hate crime?

7. Discuss the relations between the locals and the Somali Muslim population living in Shirley Falls. How do the two populations view one another? What humiliations do the Muslims undergo at the hands of the native Mainers?

8. Zach finds an unlikely ally in Abdikarim. What is it about Zach that encourages the older man to feel sympathy for him? What are Abdikarim's own demons? Talk about the differences in the two worlds of Abkikarim: the colorful market of the Al Barakaat in Somalia and the drab greyness of the small town in Maine.

10. Talk about the way in which the prevailing political pressures shape legal strategy.

11. Why is Bob so hesitant to accept Jim's view of the accident?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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