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“Pulls the reader into its clutches, then refuses to let go. As Beryl Fonteyn recounts her troubled but not unusual childhood, Davis-Gardner’s seductive poetics lure us on. . . . Captivating.”—Boston Globe
“Rarely has an author confronted more honestly one of the deepest betrayals of the notion of family... A deeply moving piece of literature.”—Los Angeles Times
“Davis-Gardner skillfully renders the fine lines that connect sympathy, intimacy and menace. . . . A wise novel.”—Washington Post
“A strong and wise book . . . Angela Davis-Gardner writes with integrity.”—Kaye Gibbons
“What a strong voice Angela Davis-Gardner has, and what a listening heart. Forms of Shelter shows the transcendent power of childhood to heal itself when the adult world cannot or will not."—Anne Rivers Siddons
1. While living at Jack’s, Beryl spends most of her time in the tree house in the Osage orange tree. Why do you think she feels so safe there? Is it ironic that she feels secure in a place that was built by Jack?
2. From the beginning it seems that Jack is trying to buy the love of Beatrice, Beryl and Stevie. Discuss some of the purchases he makes for them. What are his ulterior motives behind these purchases?
3. Beryl never abandons the memory of her father. Do you believe Jack when he tells Beryl that her father turned down Beatrice’s attempt for reconciliation and that he had found another woman? Do you think her father ever tried to contact Beryl or Stevie over the years?
4. At the end of Chapter 12, Beryl says, “Stevie and I had often talked about the day he shot the acorn at the beehive and got stung; it marks the beginning of the time that everything began to go wrong between him and Jack.” (pg. 132) Do you agree with this statement? Do you believe Stevie and Jack ever really got along?
5. Even though Beryl does not like living with Grandmummy and Grandpa, would she and Stevie have been better off if they stayed with their grandparents instead of moving in with Jack? Why do you think Beryl never considers moving back to live with them?
6. Discuss Beryl and Eunice’s friendship. Why does Eunice befriend Beryl? Does Beryl think of Eunice as a true friend? Why can Beryl not confide to Eunice about her troubles at home?
7. Why does Beryl make up people and situations in her head, such as dreaming up pretend boyfriends and fantasies about her father returning? What is she trying to discover or replace in her own life?
8. There are a number of ups and downs in Jack and Beatrice’s marriage. Do you think they honestly love each other? Why do they stay married for so long?
9. Why is Beryl attracted to Bernie? What do you think are Bernie’s actual feelings towards her?
10. Beatrice raises each of her children differently. She is very protective and sympathetic toward Stevie while being hard on Beryl. Discuss the different tactics Beatrice uses. Do you think Beatrice feels threatened of Beryl and Jack’s relationship?
11. After being sent off to a Catholic school, Stevie decides he wants to be baptized and confirmed as a Catholic. What makes him turn so suddenly to religion? Why isn’t his family more supportive?
12. Discuss the sibling relationship between Beryl and Stevie. Would you consider them close? Is their relationship a typical brother/sister relationship?
13. When Jack decides to go into the honey business, he chooses Beryl as his partner. Why does he exclude the rest of the family? Do you think he uses the bees as an excuse to get closer to Beryl?