Oliver Loving (Block) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Oliver Loving … then take off on your own:

1. Talk about the school shooting and its devastatingly long impact on the three surviving members of Oliver's family. As a parent or a sibling, do you find their responses to the trauma believable?

2. How has the shooting also affect Rebekkah Sterling? She refuses to talk about that night. As you were reading, did you find yourself becoming suspicious, wondering if she knew more than she let on?

3. Follow-up to Questions 1 and 2: In what way are all the narrators of this novel weighed down by guilt, about things they did or didn't do, the feeling that, if they'd done something differently, things would have turned out different ly? Are those reasonable, rational responses, or are they purely emotional reactions to any trauma? In other words, life is contingent: how responsible are we for much of what happens? How much of life is within our control?

4. The author uses a second-person narrative for Oliver's point of view. Why might he have chosen such an unusual, even daring (because it's difficult for a writer to pull off) narrative technique?

5. Were you able to identify with Oliver despite his extreme condition? Thought experiment: try imagining yourself in his position, prone on a bed, trapped in your body, yelling and yelling "until you had exhausted yourself, fell asleep and woke up, rejuvenated for another day's muted warfare." Would you even want to live, to wake up the next day and engage in that "muted warfare" all over again?

6. Prior to the end of the novel, how did you suppose Oliver was able to think and communicate his thoughts? Was it clear he was fully conscious … or did you think it merely an artistic conceit … or that Oliver was in a parallel universe ? Or … ?

7. What happened to the town of Bliss after the tragedy. In way did the shooting become a cause celebre, "a story that people told to serve their own ends"?

8. Eve says to an acquaintance, "My son is in pieces. He's scattered all over the world. And I have to pick them up." What does she mean?

9. Some readers/reviewers have mentioned the book's wordiness. What are your thoughts?

10. Oliver ponders from this bed:

The tragedy of love, you had learned from ten years spent looking up at your mother, is that it is only possible to love perfectly a person who is lost to you; only a lost person, lodged in a place before the narrow, clumsy gates of language, could ever understand you perfectly.

   Care to unpack that observation? What does Oliver mean? Is he correct in that "it is only possible to love perfectly a person who is lost to you"?

11. Talk about the reactions to the possibility that Oliver could be conscious.

12. Was the ending what you'd hoped for, or what you expected? Do you find it satisfying or not?

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

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