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"A beautiful, romantic, alive book. Clearcut is the patchouli and reckless love of the ‘70s, the rugged beauty and wreckage of the Pacific Northwest forests, woven together with a storyteller's grace and the great grand character of Earley Ritter, with whom every reader will fall in love.” —Amy Bloom, author of Love Invents Us
“Shengold captures the sorrow and loss that are the constant companions of bliss.” –Rebecca Stowe, author of The Shadow of Desire
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Nina Shengold’s Clearcut, an engrossing, beautifully written novel about an improbable and surprisingly satisfying love triangle.
1. Earley and Reed meet purely by accident and find Zan at the Cedar Bar Lounge the very same night, although she rarely visits town. Why is the coincidental nature of these early encounters significant? What do these chance meetings establish about the characters and about the particular time and place in which the novel is set?
2. Discuss the initial interplay among the three characters when they meet at the bar [pp. 14—23]. How does Shengold create a sense of tension, as well as attraction, among them?
3. Does one character dominate the encounter at the bar, or does the balance of power shift? What particular exchanges or comments illustrate the role of each character within the group? Do the events at the motel, including Earley’s decision to leave, alter or reinforce the pattern established at the bar?
4. What role does Margie Walkonis play in Earley’s life? What does her unavailability and lack of conventional attractiveness reveal about him? Why do you think the author decided to have their tryst end in a comical farce [p. 33]? Given their relationship throughout the book, does Margie’s behavior at the end [pp. 332—34] come as a surprise?
5. Clearcut is a deft evocation of the 1970s and the frictions that developed between different social and economic groups. Is Earley a neutral observer of the clash between the hippie sensibility and the working-class culture that shaped him and defines the people in Forks? Is his bemused, slightly derogatory description of the treeplanting crew fair [p. 43]? To what extent does it stem from his preconceived notions about privileged, upper-class kids? How does it compare to his attitudes toward the lumber industry and the local population [i.e., pp. 75, 271]? Why does learning that Zan is an army brat, “a hippie treeplanter with working-class roots” [p. 45] make a difference to him?
6. How does the men’s infatuation with Zan serve as a catalyst for their own relationship? If they had met as they did and simply decided to live and work together, would they have formed the same kind of bond?
7. In musing about Reed and Zan, Earley concludes, “For all of Reed’s moony-eyed pining, for all the way Zan threw her body against his and kissed him all over, something between them was not what it should be” [p. 107]. How objective is his point of view? Does he see the situation more clearly than Reed and Zan do? To what extent does each of the characters allow his or her needs and desires to explain–and manipulate–the relationships developing among them?
8. The shower scene [pp. 8—10] is at once funny and prescient. Why is “Earley embarrassed that he felt embarrassed” [p. 9]? How do Earley and Zan’s reactions to the erotic undercurrent between them differ? Is this difference grounded in their individual psychological makeups, or do social factors also play a part?
9. When the trio ends up in bed together, Earley “blessed Zan for knocking the hurricane lamp over, starting the fire. Fate or accident?” [p. 138]. How would you respond to this question? Does the scene evolve naturally? Is Shengold’s detailed, graphic description essential to the plot and character development?
10. What insights does the conversation the following morning provide into each of the three characters [pp.141—143]? Why is Zan more comfortable with what happened than the men? What assumptions does Earley make about what will happen in the future? How do these compare to Reed’s reactions and assumptions?
11. As the complications, both sexual and romantic, increase, which character wields the most control? Which one is the most “needy”? Does this change when Earley and Reed become lovers [pp. 251—253]?
12. The idyll comes to an end when the three of them are discovered by Harlan Walkonis [p. 289]. How does this incident bring the various themes of the novel together? Why does it end in violence?
13. The idyll comes to an end when the three of them are discovered by Harlan Walkonis [p. 289]. How does this incident bring the various themes of the novel together? Why does it end in violence?
14. Is Earley responsible in some way for what happens to Reed at the end of the novel? Can you imagine another ending? What purpose does the encounter between Earley and Reed’s father serve?
15. What does Clearcut illustrate about the relationship between sexual identity and love and desire? To what extent do the characters break free of the identities they created for themselves or had imposed upon them by society?
16. How does Shengold use the setting to deepen our understanding of the characters? What particular passages illuminate Earley’s emotional connection to the rough terrain and the demands it makes upon him? Does his appreciation of nature make him more appealing to the reader? How are Zan and Reed changed by their exposure to the wilderness?
17. Does Nina Shengold’s background in the theater affect the way the story unfolds? Does her experience as a playwright and screenwriter influence her style of writing as well?
Posted August 30, 2005
I loved this book! At first I was attracted to the gorgeous cover, but when I picked it up and started to read, I was immediately hooked. I simply could not put down. An original voice -- smart, unique and sexy as all get-out. Looking forward to her next novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 13, 2005
Rarely does steamy sex coincide witha thoughtful and often irreverent take on a sociological phenomenon -- But worlds collide in Nina Shengold's exciting debut novel about three misfits who find they fit -- in forbidden ways...A love triangle set in the great Olympic Mountains, Clearcut has a social conscience and a fiery libidoWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 23, 2008
No text was provided for this review.