Reading Group Guide
Evidence of Things Unseen
QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
Week 1: pg 3-115
1. Flash quotes Thomas Jefferson saying that all men are made of "poetry and mud." How would you interpret this statement? How does it reconcile Fos' memory of the young man in the battlefield who described making love to Emily Dickenson in his dream as "flying with your arms around the neck of a swan."
2. In The Evidence of Things Unseen, Marianne Wiggins continues this extended metaphor on beauty and light. How does Fos' theory (p.13) explain or prove his desire for Opal?
3. How has Opal's new role as Fos' wife change her view of herself? What makes her insecure in her abilities?
4. On page 95, Opal goes on a mental rant about catfish in Tennessee. How's does Early's death relate to the abundance of catfish? Why do you think Opal makes the reference at the end of "The Curve of Binding Energy (2)"?
Week 2: pg 117-259
1. Fos ponders the infinite possibilities of love on p. 119. Why do you think such a man of science who rejects religion would have such an unscientific view of love? What is it about love that is particularly interesting to Fos?
2. When Flash's brother comes into the studio, Flash's past begins to unfurl and lead Opal to speculate Flash's motives and intentions. In Flash's brother, Opal sees "Chance". What is it about the metaphorical mirror of that moment, Flash's reflection and exposure in the face of his brother, that causes you to distrust Flash's character as the story develops?
3. Fos makes a commentary on man's priorities when it comes to the development of technology. Fos says,"Stead of using chemistry to make a poison gas, Fos went on, you's think someone could find a way to stop a piddling river in the heart of Tennessee from overflowin. Killin everything it washes." What are some other frustrations Fos has with the way science is applied or misused?
4. What do you make of Mrs. Gallagher? Why do you think she is now attempting to cover her past?
5. Until this point, each character has their own interaction with light in a way that foils what is to become of them as the story develops. Outline each character and explain how their interaction with light develops their individual characters.
Week 3: pg 235 thru end
1. How does Opal and Fos' relationship change since Lightfoot's birth? In "Paternity" and "Maternity", what do they both hope to provide their child?
2. When Opal drinks and dines with the younger women in "Fishin" what becomes differences become apparent to her in how they discuss their bodies? What are the connections that can be drawn to Opal's lack of this kind of women's language and communication that Fos' touches on in "Paternity?" What did you or do you hope to pass down to your future generation?
3. Why is it so important for Lightfoot to find out about his past? What is your response when Flash tells Lightfoot, "The past doesn't hold the answers for you about who you are -- the future does"? (p. 360) Do you agree? Why?
4. Why do Flash and Lightfoot set out together across the country? What does it mean that "Lightfoot became more like Ahab on the bridge of the Pequod than he had ever been, steering only for the course in the direction of the thing he couldn't see"? (p. 352) Do you agree that Flash should not tell Lightfoot about his parentage? Why?
5. What does Ramona mean when she says "there are hundreds of stories out there...thousands. I can't turn the whole ocean into a sad story just for me." (p. 377) Why is this important for Lightfoot to hear? Why does Lightfoot go to White Sands? What if anything, does this have to do with the opening section "White Sands"? What happens to him there?
Week 4: Wrap Up
1. To what does the title refer? Does it have more than one meaning? From what source did Wiggins choose it?
2. How does Wiggins use Melville's Moby-Dick? Explore how your knowledge of Moby-Dick, or lack there of, changes your understanding of "Evidence of Things Unseen." What do whales signify throughout the story? Why does Opal's land-locked cousin make whales out of wood? Why is Lightfoot so attracted to them? Why is Flash so enamored of Melville's work?
3. Discuss the character names. What do they reveal to you about the characters and how the characters interact with each other?
4. Discuss the box that Opal was clutching when she dies. Why is it called "The Box of Clues"? What is in it? What is the significance of these items? What do they mean to Lightfoot? To Opal?