Reading Group Guide
Reading group guide for In The Gloaming by Alice Elliott Dark
In The Gloaming
1) What does 'gloaming' mean? How does the title bring out the theme of this story? As it is also the title of the whole collection, what does it hint about the rest of the stories?
2) Janet says that having intimate communication is the work she'd longed for all her life. Does she fulfill that longing? With whom?
3) Janet realizes that Laird "is the love of her life." Is she different from mothers you know in feeling that? Do you think she could freely admit this feeling to a friend, or is it an emotion people generally keep to themselves? Why?
1) The author suggests that there is a difference between bad language and dreadful language. Do you agree? How is the difference demonstrated in the story?
2) Frannie and her mother both eventually marry for peace and security. Do you think it's a mistake to do so, or is it possible to find such marriages fulfilling? Do you think a marriage that isn't based on passion is doomed? How do you think Frannie will feel about her marriage now?
The Jungle Lodge
1) This story reflects the experience of many girls who are raped or incested and don't know how to tell about it. Do you think it is getting easier for girls to be open about such experiences? Why wouldn't someone want to, even now?
2) How does the atmosphere of the jungle affect the different characters in the story?
1) This story depicts a competitive mother-daughter relationship. Have you ever observed that kind of relationship between parents and children you know? Do grandchildren change the dynamic?
1) Does Edmund seem too old for Robin? Why or why not?
2) At the end, rather than getting married, Edmund and Robin have agreed to get to know each other as friends rather than as romantic partners. How does this differ from an old-fashioned happy ending? Could this be construed as a happy ending of sorts?
The Secret Spot
1) Helen has tortured herself for years by believing her husband had an affair with Julia. Would a conversation on the subject with her husband have set her mind at rest? Do you think she's relieved to know she was wrong? What emotions do you think underlie Helen's schemes and fantasies? 2) Do you sense that the author is depicting this situation with a sense of humor?
1) Ian asks several people to help him choose between his wife and his lover. Is their advice helpful? Why or why not?
2) What effect do you think Ian's parents' divorce has on his behavior? How much self-awareness does Ian have about this influence? In general, do you think a child's experience of divorce affects his or her own marriage? How?
1) Why do you think Margaret is attached to the version of herself she created in her teenage diaries? What do you think she's saying to herself by burning them now? What happens at the airport that allows her to take this step?
2) Diana and Margaret have a conversation about which Beatle each had a crush on and what that said about her. Why do you think young girls get crushes on celebrities? Do you think these infatuations serve a purpose?
1) Is Lil a strong person? Do you think Charlotte's accusation that Lil should have stood up to Gordon is a fair one? Does Lil have her own way of coping with Gordon? What is it?
2) In this story, Gordon can't walk anymore, and Lil no longer can think or remember the way she used to. Yet Gordon is treated with more respect for his feelings and choices than Lil is. Why is that? Do we tend to give the brain a higher importance that we give the other organs? What effects do our attitudes toward the brain have on people like Lil?
Watch the Animals
1) This story depicts the relationship of a tight community to an eccentric member of it. Do you think the community changes to accommodate her differences? Should they or not?
2) At the end of the story, it seems the community rises to the occasion by giving at least temporary credence to Diana Frick's ideas about animals. Do you believe people are capable of moments of inspiration that change their thoughts and behavior? Where does that inspiration come from? Do such changes last?
Alice Elliott Dark has said that she grouped these ten stories together for two reasons: they all depict people from a particular background, symbolized by the fictional town of Wynnemoor; and in each story, the characters are struggling to find a may to communicate, both with themselves and with each other. How does their background seem to affect their efforts to communicate and connect? Does the author appear to believe that it's never too late to connect with another person, no matter how gnarled the relationship has become? Do you believe that? Why or why not?
Is this author's vision hopeful? How do depictions of painful experiences demonstrate hope?
A note from Alice Elliott Dark
I began writing after I read a novel about a bear at age eight and immediately wrote my own version. I didn't know I'd become a writer. All I knew was that I wanted to do what that author had done: make up a story, and make it turn out the way I thought it should. I still want to do that. However, characters have their own lives and their own endings. I do my best to understand the meaning of their presence in my mind, heart and hand, and then get out of their way.