Freefall (Barry) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. In the dire situation after the crash, Allison reminds herself that she "can’t afford to remember." What does this mean? How is this similar or different from Maggie’s realization that she "couldn’t afford to relive every memory"? In what ways is memory a blessing or a burden? What are the most important functions of memory?

2. In the depths of her despair, Maggie considers the possibility that "no one deserves anything." What does she mean? Why is such an idea "enough to make [her] knees give way"?

3. After Charles’ death, Allison refuses to see or talk to her mother for years. Why? Was it best for Maggie to respect this or, as she later believes, should she have "kept pushing" to make contact?

4. Why was it "important" to Allison’s father that she struggle to learn to start a fire with stone sparks instead of matches? What other difficult lessons might be important later in one’s life?

5. Allison was involved with a magazine that intended to show "women celebrating women" in a way that would "interrogate" the publishing and advertising industries. What does this mean? In what ways are such industries harmful to women? How might that be improved?

6. What skills and strengths does Allison call upon and discover as she struggles to survive in the mountains? Do you think you could survive in her circumstances?

7. At one point, purposefully gouging her hand on sharp rock to stay awake, Allison finds that, "the pain shocks through… clearing my mind like a gust of wind." In what other ways might pain be useful or necessary? What determines a person’s pain threshold?

8. At one point, obsessed with exercise and diet to please Ben, Allison feels "faint and flushed with righteousness" and a "power in abstention." How does her obsession and struggles with body image speak to the extreme pressures that women experience in our society?

9. In what ways is Shannon an effective officer? How in particular does she help Maggie?

10. Discussing grief, Tony explains to Maggie that "even when you’re surrounded by people, you’re still completely lonely," and "you’ve got to deal with it whatever way you can." How does Maggie respond to her grief? What are the healthiest responses to loss and regret?

11. Unable to remember the funeral service for Charles, Maggie thinks, "The mind is funny that way." What might she mean?

12. Maggie had always tried to teach Allison "how important it was for a woman to be independent." What, besides financial independence, does this mean for Maggie?

13. Jim suggests to Maggie that her estrangement from Allison is "the way of the world… our children grow up and become strangers to us." In what ways is this true or not? What elements of modern living might cause such separation? What, if anything, can we do about it?

14. Settled back into her mother’s house after all that happened, Allison acknowledges that "it feels like home" and is "etched in [her] bones." What is home? In what ways is it a place or a feeling? How is it important throughout one’s life?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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