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Beattie's stories offer starkly honest, often bittersweet glimpses of
life -- women nursing broken hearts, men looking for love, married
couples struggling to stay married, having affairs, leaving or wanting
to leave. Disillusionment abounds. Love is often frustrated, unrequited,
or absent. But Beattie moves gently among her characters, gracefully
revealing their failings, their troubles, and ultimately their ability to
endure. Her unsentimental voice propels these remarkable stories
forward, and her keen insight affords us a rare glimpse into the
2. What is the significance of the title "Where You'll Find Me", both in the short story of that name and in the collection as a whole?
3. In Esquire magazine, Richard Ford writes of Beattie: "She pins my generation to its real-life backing like a frivolous, unornate butterfly, yet charitably lets us believe we might be smart enough to escape." What might Mr. Ford mean by this? Do Beattie's stories support his view? If so, how?
4. Describe Beattie's literary voice. Is it tragic? Comic? Intimate or detached? Does it remind you of other literary voices? If so, whose? Describe and discuss Beattie's use of everyday detail and its importance to her writing.
5. Is there such a thing as an archetypal Beattie character? If so, describe one. What do Beattie's characters suffer from the most? What do her characters want? Do they ever get what they want? Does Beattie offer us any insight into her characters' troubles? Does she have hope for them?
6. The stories "Taking Hold," "Summer People," and "Heaven on a Summer Night," are, in part, stories about young adults and children dealing with adults. How do the young people in Beattie's stories regard their parents and/or older adults, and vice versa? Within the context of her stories, what do these characters offer one another? What other similarities do these stories have? How are they inherently different?
7. In the story "The Big Outside World," Renee and her husband Tadd are packing to move from New York to live in the countryfor a while. Renee takes a bag of old clothes to Goodwill, and when she sets the bag down in front of the closed store, a street person tears into it and begins pulling her personal possessions from it, trying them on, one after another. In this and other stories, the main characters find themselves momentarily involved with a strange person and circumstance. Who or what might these characters represent? What might these strange characters mean to the main characters? How does their presence affect the main characters and their immediate troubles? Do the main characters learn anything from these circumstances?
8. Some of Beattie's characters become fixated on things. In the story, "Janus," Andrea becomes fixated on a bowl. In the story, "Summer People," Tom becomes fixated on a man who has stopped by asking about the house and the property. In "Where You'll Find Me," the narrator becomes fixated on a man she never meets. What might these fixations symbolize for Beattie's characters? What might these things/objects represent? How might these fixations be an extension to the character's psyche? Are there any other characters who fixate on something? If so, who are they and on what do they fixate?
9. The stories "Skeletons," "Spiritus," "Times," and "Where You'll Find Me," are about marriage and married couples. How do these stories illuminate Beattie's vision of contemporary marriage? What happens in a Beattie marriage? Do her married characters get what they are looking for from their mates?
10. What happens between Beattie's male and female characters both in and out of marriage? What characterizes their troubles? Do Beattie's characters get the love they are after? If not, what keeps them from getting it? Do her characters ever break through to each other? How do they manage it?
11. In the story "In the White Night," Vernon and his wife, Carol, attend a party where they are reminded of the daughter they lost. When they return home, Vernon falls asleep on the sofa with Carol's coat pulled over him. Carol pulls his coat out and lies down on the floor next to him. Beattie writes: "In the white night world outside, their daughter might be drifting past like an angel, and she would see this tableau, for the second that she hovered, as a necessary small adjustment." Why do you think this act comforted Vernon? Why did his wife lay down next to him, rather than to have gone to bed? How do Beattie's other characters cope with inevitable sadness? What are some of the small adjustments they make? What are some of the ways we make our small adjustments?
12. What view of human nature does Where You'll Find Me seem to express? What might Beattie's vantage point be? Does Beattie herself provide or suggest a vision of an ideal world? What is it?