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Picturing a World

Blue Book of Nebo

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I have just completed a set of discussion questions for my public library's April book club selection, The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros (see below). I read it in a library copy, then bought my own to reread—along with The Seasoning, which I'm reading now with great satisfaction. To catch how you should hear her stories, listen to her reading aloud the opening of Nebo.

1. Would you say The Blue Book of Nebo is primarily one of the following?
·       survivalist speculative fiction
·       a study of a mother and son
·       a depiction of Welsh life
·       a coming-of-age story
·       other (specify)
2. What did the device of alternating diary entries accomplish that first-person narration, an omniscient narrator, or a single center of consciousness could not?
3. How would you characterize Dylan? Rowenna? Do they change in the course of the novel? Did they ever surprise you? Was one or the other the main protagonist?
4. The surface action moves forward in a fictional present, but Dylan and Rowenna also each speak about the past. How do their memories deepen and change the story as the book progresses? Does it feel integrated?
5. What parts do Mona and the other secondary characters (e.g., Gaynor, the Thorpes, Guion) play?
6. Is the episode of the hare important? Is so, why? What other events, past or present, shape either the action or the reader's response?
7. The novel contains several themes and motifs
·       books and literature
·       Welsh language
·       Welsh literature
·       religion
·       growing up
·       sexuality
·       community
·       food
·       other (specify)
How are they different for Dylan and Rowenna? How did you respond to them in the text? Do they resonate outside the novel in a reader's life?
8. The Blue Book of Nebo, like Louise Erdrich's The Sentence, is a response to the pandemic, and both could supply whole reading lists. Did any of the titles mentioned in Nebo go on your To-Read list? Do you like books that point to other titles, or are they annoying?
9. Are there unresolved tensions in the main plot and/or thematic material?
10. Was the ending satisfactory? Did it bring the story to conclusion or point ahead?
11. What other approaches to this multi-layered book should we take?!?

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