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"WONDERFULLY SATISFYING AND APPEALING . . . It's the summer of 1969 in a place called Sweet Valley, Arkansas. Cherry and Baby [are] soon to be college seniors at the dinky university just a few miles away. . . . It all looks like a pleasant, predictable American life, but a long second look reveals that things aren't exactly what they seem to be. . . . [Mailer] loves her characters, and we fall in love with them, too."
—The Washington Post Book World
"IN GENTLY ROLLING SOUTHERN CADENCES, MAILER CAPTURES THE HORMONAL UPS AND DOWNS OF YOUNG WOMEN TEETERING ON THE VERGE OF ADULTHOOD."
"THIS WINSOME COMING-OF-AGE NOVEL OFFERS MUCH TO MANY. Cherry, the narrator, is my kind of woman: good-looking, straight-talking, and able to describe what it's like to get amorous when you're wearing ten thousand petticoats. Most important, she's willing to decide for herself what's true."
"SMOOTHLY WRITTEN, SWEETLY SENTIMENTAL."
—The New York Times Book Review
1. If you were to tell a friend about Windchill Summer, how would you describe it without giving away a single detail of the plot?
2. Why do you think the author chose to write Cherry's chapters in the first person while writing all the other character's chapters in the third person?
3. From your point of view, is Cherry indeed the central character? Explain why or why not. Does another character "steal the show"?
4. If you were to pinpoint the novel's essential theme in only a few words, what would it be?
5. Nguyen, Bean's Vietnamese lover, could be said to represent Bean's wartime experience, symbolic of his fears. The violent act he commits in Sweet Valley is meshed with his confused memories of her. Was Nguyen created strictly for this purpose, to serve as horrific memory, or is she a character in her own right? How believable is Bean's distortion of reality?
6. Two women in the novel, the mothers of Cherry and Carlene, feel constricted in their marriages. Cherry's mother, married to a very religious man, takes pleasure in jewelry, cosmetics, and movies her husband would not approve of, while Carlene's mother is a free-spirited woman who communes with nature in order to escape. What, if anything, do you think the author is saying about the state of marriage, the essential nature of women, or the need for individualism? How do these two characters differ in these respects from Baby's Manang?
7. In what way did the reading of Windchill Summer change your view of the Vietnam War?
8. Do you find the title of the novel an apt one?
9. While Cherry's voice is one of wit and affability, there are otherpassages far more somber, such as Jerry's letters from Vietnam or the worrisome troubled edge that Baby brings to the story. How did such variation in tone affect your reading experience?
10. How does the author use humor in this novel?
11. Which character do you find most sympathetic and why?
12. Consider the main characters as they each undergo a change or experience a revelation during the course of the novel. In what way do each of them change? Whose transformation is most dramatic? Whose is most startling or unexpected?
13. Mysticism plays a role in the understanding of Baby's heritage. How does knowledge of her family's past affect her?
14. Friendship is at the core of this novel, setting the stage for the exploration of trust, secrecy, loyalty, betrayal, and reunion. Is there any message about friendship that you take away from your reading of Windchill Summer?
15. Carlene's circumstances are particularly difficult. What, given the confines of her situation, might she have done differently? Does she have other viable choices? How does her relationship with her mother shape her direction? Her relationship with Jerry?
16. What passages in the novel are especially riveting for you? In what ways does the author engage our senses?
Posted April 27, 2001
I felt the murder plot was a little under-developed. I kept reading to find out who-done-it and it was a bit of a let down. Some of the Vietnam war crimes mentioned are headlines in today's paper. I did like the writing style and the main character, Cherry. But, I pictured her as a very tall, gawky albino which is how she was described but couldn't throw beautiful into the mix as they wanted me to.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2000
Being a child born in the 60's, I don't know much about the Vietnam War, and what I do know I've learned from fictional stories such as this one. It helped me to understand what the men went through and what they had to overcome after coming back to the U.S. This story was exciting and intriguing. It was hard not to go to the end of the book and see who the real murderer of Carlene was. The character of Cherry was humorous, laughed at herself, and was sensitive and charming, as well as extremely naive. I enjoyed reading this story through her eyes, and I give Norris Church Mailer 5 stars for her first novel. Bravo!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 9, 2000
I really enjoyed this book. I really could identify with the characters. It also really brought home the realities of the Viet Nam war and what people were struggling with during that time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 11, 2009
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