Reading Group Guide for Goodbye, Earl
1) In this story, setting is more than a backdrop. The depiction of Alaska and coastal California, where most of the novel takes place, goes deeper than just creating the mood. These places seem to actively reflect the characters' state of mind and emotional "landscape," so to speak. As such, what significance does Beryl's moving to Alaska have in terms of the larger story? What did Alaska offer her that California did not? What tools does the author use to make the natural landscape such a vibrant part of this novel?
2) How are animals used to the same effect throughout this story? Often, as the lives of these people unfold their relationships with non-human characters reveal much about their personality. Think about Sally with her horse, Thomas Jack with birds, and Beryl with many different kinds of animals. Why is it that animals give us a window into the emotional worlds of these people?
3) Beryl religiously writes in her journal. As such, it is a key in understanding her as a character. At one point, we learn this about her writing: "What she'd written in California wasn't earth shattering, but here in Alaska she was digging down to the bedrock of her life, and it was a stony parcel of land to till." This metaphor not only sheds light on Beryl's relationship with Alaska, but also alludes to the unresolved pain surrounding the rape that she suffered as a teenager. A few pages earlier, that rape, and Beryl'