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When, after a four-year absence, seventeen-year-old Squid returns to her childhood home on a remote lighthouse island off British Columbia with her young daughter in tow, she and her parents try to come to terms with each other and the painful events of the past, especially the death of her older brother.
From the Hardcover edition.
1. He too, is like the mussel, she thinks. He’s rooted to his island; his byssus is just as strong. To tear him loose would kill him (p. 82).
Murray thinks of Lizzie Island as a paradise, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. How do Hannah, Squid, and Alastair’s views of the island differ from Murray’s–and from each other’s? Do they all need the island in the same way? Imagine growing up on an island with only your family. In what ways do you think you’d turn out differently?
2. If you didn’t grow up on a tiny island, how has where you live shaped your identity? Think about geography, climate, local society, culture, economic conditions, etc. Draw parallels between your life and the book.
3. There are many secrets in this story. What are the major revelations that emerge late in the book? What are Hannah and Alastair, in particular, thinking or feeling that they don’t tell anyone else? How does keeping secrets affect a relationship?
4. Alastair says, “Don’t do something if there’s a single person–anywhere–that you don’t want to know what you’re doing” (p. 66). Do you agree with this principle? Are there exceptions? (And don’t say planning a surprise party!)
5. As [Murray] took each book from the box, he set it onto one of the four stacks he was making: one for each McCrae. Hannah looked at the titles and saw how he was building Alastair and Squid, and even herself, into the people he thought they should be (p. 127).
In a variety of ways, Murray exerts a strong influence on the family. Why does he have such a powerful role,especially compared to Hannah? How does Murray’s vision of what each family member should be differ from his or her own vision? What is Murray’s vision of himself–do you think it changes after Alastair’s death and Squid leaves the island?
6. The characters have different ways of dealing with conflict and problems. Squid bounces from topic to topic, Hannah becomes resentful, Alastair isolates himself in his writing and work. Flesh out each character’s style, including Murray’s, and find examples in the book. Who are you most like?
7. Describe Squid and Alastair’s relationship. Were Squid’s feelings for Alastair different from Alastair’s feelings for Squid? What do they like about each other, and how do they disappoint each other? Does the book imply that their love for each other developed a sexual aspect?
8. Look back at Alastair’s diary entries. What are the themes, or major questions, that arise? What did Alastair want? What do you think he needed?
9. In your eyes, what does the whale symbolize in this story? Recall its various appearances throughout the book, Alastair’s work on whale song, and what he writes about drowning. Why does the whale need to die in the end, rather than just leave the waters around the island?
10. Extreme events–Alastair’s death, Squid’s pregnancy–change the family. What do you think would have happened to the characters’ lives in the absence of any definitive events? Think about a time in your life when it was hard to break the status quo, even though you knew it needed to be changed. What finally lead to change?
11. What is one idea or lesson from this book that can help you think about how you want to live your life? Think about your views on family, raising children, marriage, personal goals, etc.
Posted January 5, 2007
Squid, leaving at 14 and six months pregnant, returns to Lizzie Island at 17 with a young daughter, Tatiana or Tat for short. Memories of her past away brother come back and awaken something inside of her that she has forgotten. She brings tat to the island only for a month. During that month she uncovers a secret her brother had never told her. Murray, Squid¿s dad, and Hannah, Squid¿s mom, doesn¿t want her to go. They keep saying over and over that Lizzie Island is her home. Murray is the keeper of the lighthouse, and when he turns sixty five he has to retire. Part of the reason he wants her to stay is so when he turns sixty five he doesn¿t have to leave his home on Lizzie Island. When raising Squid and Alastair, her brother, Murray would always say work then play. Murray would teach them many things about nature, and once a month the Darby would come and bring supplies weather it was books or jars of jam. Tat is adapting more to the island every day. Squid is wondering if staying would be best for Tat. No matter what, if she stays or if she goes, somebody¿s heart will be broken. The book is a little hard to understand in the beginning, but towards the middle it gets understandable. After you reach the middle part in the book you never get lost. The book isn¿t a part of a series. People who like this book would usually like to read about character conflicts and about emotion. I have seen movies on TV about this kind of situation, and the book is nothing like the ending of the movies If you enjoy reading books by Lurlene McDaniel, you man enjoy reading this book by Iain Lawrence. If this book was in a series I would definitely read the next one!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 8, 2007
Posted October 9, 2005
Posted July 28, 2002
This haunting and beautifully written story is for a mature YA reader. I think it would be an excellent choice for an adult book group. The sense of place - a small, remote island quite far north of Vancouver - is very well depicted. So is the interesting and unusual lightkeeper's family that inhabit the island and tend to the lighthouse. The story, although nothing like it, reminded me of 'The all of it' by Jeanne Haien in mood and the complexity of the subject matter. This is the first book by this author that I have read (it was a reader's copy). I will definitely seek out more of his books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.