This reading group guide for The Winters in Bloom includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
The Winters in Bloom recounts the story of a family stricken by grief—and guilt—after the disappearance of their five-year-old son from his own backyard one ordinary summer morning. As Kyra and David Winter embark on a journey of time and memory to find their child, they are forced to reveal secrets about themselves they’ve always kept hidden. But the couple is also given a chance to discover that it’s not too late to have the family they’ve dreamed of; that even if the world is full of risks, as long as they have hope, the future can bloom.
TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
- The novel opens with Michael in his bedroom counting on his fingers the things of which he is certain. He counts twenty certainties each night, which is a small number compared to his list of doubts, “the future was always the biggest doubt of all.” (p. 3) Could this opening scene be said to foreshadow the kidnapping? Do you think Michael has some kind of sense of what might be in store for him? Do his parents? What does this scene tell us about the Winter family?
- Discuss Amy and Kyra’s relationship as children and as young adults. Do the two sisters have a typical relationship? Why or why not? Revisit the scene on page 20 when their mother leaves them. How does this event help shape the adults Amy and Kyra become?
- Were you surprised to learn about Amy’s drug use? Why do you think she was so determined to keep it a secret from Kyra?
- Consider Zach and his role in the novel. Is he a sympathetic character? What role, if any, do you think he played in what happened to Amy? Do you forgive him for what he did or did not do in his relationship with Kyra? Do you think he deserves some of the blame for the problems Hannah has?
- During his first interview with Detective Ingle after Michael’s disappearance, David feels that the detective is insinuating that he and Kyra are “failing as parents.” (p 59) Do you think David is actually afraid that this is true? Does Kyra share this fear? Why is being a good parent so important to each of them?
- Evaluate Sandra and Courtney’s relationship. Why do you think the two women remain close after the breakup of David and Courtney’s marriage? Do they need each other equally or is it an uneven relationship in terms of caring for and being cared for? Turn to Chapter 8 and discuss.
- On page 103, Sandra says: “You never get over the ones you lose.” In light of this quote, think about the ways in which the characters in the story live with their grief over losing someone they love. Consider Sandra, David, Kyra, Courtney and Hannah in your response.
- Michael’s disappearance acts as the catalyst for David and Kyra to finally share their pasts with each other. During the course of the day, Kyra asks David: “Do we really know each other? Do you think I know you?” (p. 167) Do you feel that Kyra and David know each other well? Can anyone ever fully know another person? Why or why not?
- Did you suspect that Hannah was Amy’s daughter? Compare and contrast Amy and Hannah. Do the two women share any similarities?
- Families are, by nature, inter-dependent. Even the Winters and their estranged or distant relatives are deeply connected, perhaps more so than they realize. Consider the ways in which David and Kyra’s lives are shaped by or shape the lives of Courtney, Amy, Hannah, and Sandra. Use the following lament from Kyra as a guide: “It was as if her family’s very existence relied on the collapse of her sister’s.” (p. 292)
- Revisit one of the concluding scenes in the novel, where Michael is climbing a tree entirely by himself. (pp. 300-301) What is the significance of this moment? Does it mark a turning point for Michael? For the other characters? How so?
- Did the ending of the story surprise you? What do you think Kyra meant when she said: “Though she’d lost her sister, her sister’s daughter had found her again. This wasn’t fate or karma; this was grace.” (p. 304) How do you define grace?
- Discuss the symbolism in the title. How are the Winters “in bloom”? In what ways had something both changed and not changed—as Michael says in the last line of the novel? Do you think the Winters will start to include Courtney and Hannah in their life with Michael?
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. The Winters in Bloom
takes readers into one family’s anxieties and fears about raising a child. Explore this topic further by having a movie night with your book club. Rent Parenthood
(1989) and discuss any parallels you find between the characters in the two stories. Both Steve Martin’s character and David Winter have problems with their own fathers: how does this affect their ability to be fathers themselves? Discuss the similarities and differences between the more traditional extended family in the movie and the extension of the Winter family that includes Sandra, Hannah, and Courtney.
2. Being a good parent—or failing at one’s role as a parent—is a significant theme in the novel. Mothers, especially, are discussed in great detail. Have a dinner party with your group and discuss the types of mothers in the novel. Consider Courtney’s mother Liz, Courtney herself as a mother, Amy and Kyra’s mother, and both Amy and Kyra as mothers. Finally, discuss Sandra, who acts as the stand-in mother for many of the characters. Over dinner, share with your group why you think Sandra is or is not successful in her role as a mother. Is she what you would define as a good mother? Why or why not? Do any of these characters remind you of the mothers in your own life?
3. If you haven’t done so already, have your book club read one of Lisa Tucker’s previous novels. Try The Promised World
(2009), The Cure for Modern Life
(2008), Once Upon a Day
(2006), Shout Down the
Moon (2004), or The Song Reader
(2003). Which book is the group’s favorite? Can you find any similarities between the characters in The Winters in Bloom
and the other book by Lisa that you read?