As part of our 2014 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions about the featured work—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. You may use the questions to reflect back on each book once you’ve finished it or to guide you as you read. Either way, we hope these features will enrich your reading experience. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)
Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint why, exactly, a story hooks a reader and refuses to let her go. That was the case for Bas Bleu reviewer KG when she read our June selection, Tigers in Red Weather. “I read this novel over the course of a single weekend and proceeded to rave about it to anyone who would listen. My mother, my friends at book club, and my editor all responded by excitedly asking ‘What’s it about?’ My response: ‘It’s hard to explain, but it’s amazing!’” Without giving too much away, we can tell you it’s a masterfully written, slow-burning family saga that draws you deeper into its dark heart with every page you turn.
1. The novel begins at a time of great optimism, both personal and global: World War II is ending, Helena is engaged to be married, and Nick’s husband finally is returning from overseas. When the novel concludes in 1969, both the family and nation have changed dramatically. What parallels can you draw between the two?
2. Author Liza Klaussmann utilizes five different narrators to tell her tale. How differently might the novel have turned out if only Nick and Helena’s voices were heard? Did the additional narrators help or hinder your understanding of the family dynamic? Should Klaussmann have given us Avery’s point of view as well? Why do you think Ed’s chapters are the only ones told in the first person?
3. A murder is uncovered partway through the novel, yet rather than becoming the focal point of the story it becomes an (admittedly disturbing) tool to inform the characters’ development—or, in some cases, their unraveling. Why do you think Klaussmann chose such a catalyst?
4. Though the story spans decades, the plot of Tigers in Red Weather seems to unfold over the course of an endless summer. In fact, the oppressive heat and languor of the season are integral to the mood of the book and the disintegration of certain relationships. Would Nick and Helena’s story have been as effective if it had taken place during, say, the family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays instead?
5. Nick and Helena are more like sisters than cousins, thanks in no small part to their lifelong proximity. But marriage flings them to opposite coasts. What if they had continued living in the same city? Would their relationship still have changed? For better or for worse? How much of the change was due to marriage and how much due to personality, age, and time? Would their outcomes have been different if the novel began in the 1980s and ended in the early twenty-first century, when women had more options for work and family?
6. Who do you think loves Daisy more, Nick or Ed? Which was most surprising to you, Nick’s betrayal of her daughter or Ed’s loyalty to his cousin?
7. What did you think of the novel’s ending? Did it end on a hopeless note or a hopeful one? Does the family unit from Tiger House still have a future or is it every man/woman for themselves?