How to Climb the Eiffel Tower – Reading Guide

Discussion Questions for How to Climb the Eiffel Tower

  1. EiffelTower Cover webWhen we first meet Lara, her only friends are the characters in her books. Are there any fictional characters that you consider friends?

  2. Lara and Jane ease each other through their cancer experiences, yet they met entirely by chance. How do you think their experiences would have been different if Jane and Lara had not run into each other several times?

  3. Lara meets several people along her journey through cancer treatment – Cherry Red Sweat Suit, the man in the droopy suit, Lorraine, The Badger – that change the way she experiences her treatment. How have chance encounters changed the way you have experienced stressful events in your life?

  4. When you first met Garlic Breath and Pathetic Dog Owner, did you think they would be working for Lara by the end of the novel? Why do you think Lara wanted them on her team?

  5. Lara receives excellent medical care from both Dr. Lander and Dr. Obatu, yet comes away with very different impressions of her doctors. How important do you feel a physician's interpersonal style affects their patients?

  6. In How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, Lara Blaine, the MC, suffers from severe social anxiety. Although she is the best analyst in her department and has been there for seven years, no one in the office knows her. She further distances herself from her co-workers by not learning their names. Instead, she gives them nicknames like Garlic Breath, Short Red Head, Bald Guy, and Pathetic Dog Owner. Why do you think she objectifies her co-workers? (Hint: Elizabeth Hein addresses this question on her writer's blog

  7. The opportunity to be part of a team changes the way Lara sees herself in relation to other people. How has being part of a team changed the way you look at yourself?

  8. Several young men show interest in Lara, but she is not interested in any of them. Why do you think she found Sebastian attractive?

  9. Jane struggles to cope with the loss of her health as well as the loss of her professional identity to cancer. At one point, she reads Buddhist philosophy to help her cope with her psychological anguish. At another, she is drinking heavily. What do you think you would do with losing your identity to illness?

  10. Lara's mother knew where Lara was and that she had stolen Dale's money. Why do you think Mama did not contact her earlier? Do you think she was protecting Lara from Dale, or that she did not care to see Lara?

  11. Where do you think Lara's mother was during the years Lara lived with her grandparents? Do you think Lara's father knew he had a daughter?

  12. Lara's mother knew about Lara's inheritance all along. Why do you think she stayed with Dale? Do you think Dale knew that Lara was a wealthy girl when he was abusing her? Would it have changed anything?

  13. Do you think Lara and Tom will remain close after Jane's death? Could he be a brother-like figure in Lara's life?

  14. Many times, cancer survivors will say that their experiences have given them wisdom and insight. What experiences in your life have left you wiser? Was that knowledge worth the suffering you endured to acquire it?

  15. This book is titled How to Climb the Eiffel Tower and yet the actual Eiffel Tower doesn't appear in the book. What roll do you think the Eiffel Tower plays in the novel? What does it represent? (Hint: Elizabeth Hein addresses this question on her writer's blog.)

The 53rd Parallel – Reading Guide

FiftyThirdParallel FrontCover webDiscussion Questions for The 53rd Parallel

  1. Who is This Man? Why does he ride the moose? What does This Man mean to you and what role does he have in this novel?

  2. The author has made every river the River, and has even named the River as a character. Why do you think he does this? What does this reflect about the River's role in the book?

  3. Brian did a most unspeakable act when he beat his son. Did you forgive him his trespass? Why?

  4. Maureen did a most unspeakable act, helping bomb a London post office that killed a policeman and a grandfather. Do you forgive her? Why do you think she she repeats the phrase "God Bless the Innocents"?

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A Sinner in Paradise – Reading Guide

SIP-Paperback-WebDiscussion questions for A Sinner in Paradise

  1. Clearly Geneva comes to see herself as a sinner at some point. Do you agree that she is a sinner, or is she simply full of the foibles of any human? Why or why not? Is there any of the saint in her as well?

  2. Four men appear to be in love with Geneva. Do you think they all really do love her? What is it that each of them finds attractive about her? How does she love any or each of them?

  3. Do you think Geneva ended up with the right man? Why or why not?

  4. "Honesty" is mentioned frequently, but lies seem to abound. Which characters are the most honest? The most dishonest? In what ways are they dishonest? Do you think the dishonest characters become more honest?

  5. Holy Miracle tells Geneva she has a "thistle in her soul." Howard Knight also tells her she has a "greedy soul." What do you think each of these men see in her that cause them to say this?

  6. Why do you think Holy Miracle and Sally Beth have formed a bond? What do they see in each other?

  7. What do you think actually happened when Holy Miracle blessed Geneva up on Jacob's Mountain? Was her epiphany necessary for Geneva to be happy and able to fully love Chap, or do you they could have been happy together if the scene had not happened? Why or why not?

  8. What do you think happens to the other characters in the book, especially Sally Beth, Howard Graves and John? How do you think the events in the book may have changed their lives?

  9. Lenora tells a tragic story concerning her sister and Geneva's and Rachel's grandfather. How did this story affect you? Did you find it offensive? Why do you suppose it was included in the story? Did it serve any dramatic purpose?

  10. What purpose do Jimmy Lee, Lenora, Ike, and Mrs. Wheater serve? Do you believe people like them exist (or existed at the time) in rural West Virginia?

  11. Much is made of the notion that Geneva needs to be married before her baby is born. Do you think it is reasonable that people in rural West Virginia in 1978 would feel this way? Are there significant differences in the role and treatment of women now than in 1978?

  12. Names are significant throughout the book. There are two Howards. Geneva believes her family members pronounce their surname incorrectly. Several people are called by more than one name. Why do you think the author emphasized names? Do you see any unmentioned significance in any of the names?

  13. What do you believe is the overarching message of the story?

  14. What was your favorite scene? Why?

  15. Who was your favorite character?
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