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Almost Heaven

Almost Heaven

  • reading group guide
Before his thirtieth birthday Holden Garfield has already burned out as a journalist in war-torn Bosnia. Returning to the United States, he hopes the familiar sunshine and rolling hills of Virginia will help him put aside the horrors he reported. Instead he finds Melanie, his mentor's sister, who is institutionalized with a mysterious amnesia after her husband and son were killed five weeks earlier by a freak force of nature. Struck as if by lightning by her beauty, Holden sets out to help her reconstruct her past, and the pair is swept up in a passionate love affair -- one fighting to remember, the other struggling to forget.
With this breakneck story of love and loss, Marianne Wiggins delivers a compelling novel that is a series of powerful metaphors for the curative forces of love as well as her own personal love letter to the American South.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780671038601 | 
  • December 1999
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion for Marianne Wiggins' Almost Heaven. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. READING GROUP QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
  1. Who is on Holden's list of "the ten men who have shaped his life"? What does the fact that he keeps a list like this tell us about Holden's character? What is he looking for, what does he value, and what about his current situation compels him to return to this list, searching for "grace, trust, and humility"? Why is his own father not on the list? Is Noah John his surrogate father?
  2. Sleep-deprived in the Frankfurt airport, traumatized by his experiences, and possibly in the midst of a nervous breakdown, Holden contends with his memory's "flashbulb effect." What is the "flashbulb effect"? What is Holden remembering?
  3. While Holden is lost in memories of his grandfather, Padge, his plane to Richmond is struck by lightning with the abruptness and mystery of a symphonic explosion, "like Beethoven composing." At this point, before any of the central plot of the novel has unfolded, Wiggins has already established two central themes, memory and weather. What connections exist between the two? How do these early scenes foreshadow how the story will unfold and eventually climax?
  4. Consider the stark, almo
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About the Author

Marianne Wiggins
Lara Porzac

Marianne Wiggins

Marianne Wiggins is the author of seven books of fiction including John Dollar and Evidence of Things Unseen. She has won an NEA grant, the Whiting Writers' Award, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and she was a National Book Award finalist in fiction for Evidence of Things Unseen.

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