Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

The protagonist in this novel is a nineteen year old cabdriver in a big city of Australia. His name is Ed Kennedy. Ed is what some may call, “your average Joe”, but he proves more than that in the story. Out of all of his siblings, Ed still lives in the town that he grew up in. Ed hasn’t quite opened his eyes to his future that he could potential have if he would just try. Ed lives a very simple life unlike his siblings who have high paying occupations. His family isn’t mentioned in great detail. His mother claims that Ed is a failure just like his dad who never accomplished anything in life, and died an alcoholic. “You’re just like him.” (Zusak, 39) is the response Ed’s mother gave him when Ed asked why she didn’t approve of him. Ed’s mother does love him, but does not love the fact that he is headed the same way in society as his father.

The beginning of the novel starts off with Ed and his friend Marv, going to the bank, but while they are at the bank a robbery is present. Ed is titled a hero in the newspaper the following day, because he stops the gunman in his tracks inadvertently when he decided to flee away. Ed is asked by the police to come to court to serve as a witness to the robbery. At the end of the trial, the gunman says this to Ed, “You’re a dead man” (Zusak, 39) Ed is quite frightened by this since the robber is only in jail for six months. Ed finally forgets about the saying until a few days later when he starts to receive playing cards in his mail. After Ed is crowned a local hero in the newspaper, his life starts to give him a range of feelings. He only receives the ace playing card in the four suites. Each card had a total of three titles, addresses or clues for Ed to help him find his recipients. He never learns who sends all the aces of each suit until the end, but each suit is symbolic to how Ed must help the people. For example, the people he met with the ace of diamonds symbolized the need to protect peole from physical or emotional harm. The order of the aces went diamonds, clubs, spades and then hearts. From the beginning to the end of the novel, Ed’s life is totally changed by the one day he thought he was just going to go to the bank.

Discussion Questions:

1.If you were chosen by a random person to deliver messages to such strangers would you be willing to do it like Ed? Why or Why not?

2.Who do you believe is sending Ed the secret messages and why?

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

What keeps a perfectly sane person in a mental hospital? Randle Patrick McMurphy asked to be sent to a mental hospital instead of laboring at a work farm. He quickly learns that the patients are either Acutes or Chronics. Acutes are patients that are there not because they are insane, but because they are different. These patients are there voluntarily and can leave at any time. The Chronics are patients that will never leave. Some Acutes become Chronics due to conflicts in the hospital that turn them insane or because the inhumane treatments in the hospital turn them into vegetables.
McMurphy quickly begins creating chaos at the hospital for the staff. The staff keeps the patients drugged so they are controllable. But with McMurphy's arrival, they begin to come out of their "fog" and think for themselves. At one point McMurphy tries to get Nurse Ratched to change the cleaning times in the ward so they could watch the World Series. She did not let them, so when it came time for the World Series, McMurphy pulled up a chair in front of the tv. Nurse Ratched turns off the power and McMurphy continues to "watch" the blank tv and cheers for the game he can't see. As the patients sit around him and do the same, Nurse Ratched becomes furious.
As McMurphy continues to give patients confidence, he gets himself in more and more trouble with the staff. As punishment he is told to clean toilets. McMurphy responds by leaving notes in the rim of the toilet. McMurphy knows how to push everything to the limit. Eventually he learns that the staff is who controls when he is set free. At first he backs down with his games, but eventually he begins challenging them again.
What do you think happens to McMurphy? Would you voluntarily check yourself into a mental hospital when you know there is nothing wrong with you?

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini tells the story of a young Afghan boy named Amir. Amir has a very rich and powerful father named Baba, and two servants, Hassan and his father Ali. Hassan and Ali are both minorities in Afganistan, and are sometimes abused. Even so, Hassan and Amir are best friends. Amir also feels that his father’s friend, Rahim Khan, is more like a father to himself. Later in the story, the two boys, Hassan and Amir, enter in Afghanistan’s annual kite-fighting contest. The goal was to sever the string of opponents’ kites without losing your own. When a kite falls the other children would run after, called kite-running. Amir wins the contest, and Hassan tries to run the last kite. He gets it, but some enemies of his want it too. As Amir is watching, they torture Hassan but let him keep the kite. Amir’s guilt makes the friendship drift apart, and he decides Hassan has to go. He frames Hassan for stealing and Baba dismisses them. Years later, Baba and Amir have to flee Afghanistan to go to Pakistan, because Afghanistan has become a war zone. Two years later, Baba and Amir live in Fremont, California. Baba works while Amir goes to college. Baba meets some old friends at a flea market and Amir ends up marrying their daughter. Baba gets cancer and dies shortly after the wedding. Later, Amir gets a call from Rahim Khan. He is sick and wants Amir to see him in Pakistan. When he gets there, he learns that both Hassan and his wife, Farzana, were killed by the Taliban, but their little boy, Sohrab, is stuck in a terrible orphanage. Amir goes out to rescue this little boy, as atonement for his previous sins. Amir goes to this orphanage, and finds out that Sohrab had been taken away a few months earlier by a Taliban official. He arranges a meeting with this official and eventually realizes that he both has Sohrab and is the kid who tortured Hassan all those years ago. Amir and Sohrab escape with their lives only after Sohrab shoots the Taliban man with his slingshot. Amir now has to try to get Sohrab to America to live with him. He starts to gain his trust, and tries to legally adopt him. The adoption agency tells him that Sohrab may have to live in an orphanage for a few months. Later that day, Amir and his wife find a way to bring Sohrab to America, but he tried to kill himself. They bring him to America, but he remains withdrawn and forlorn. The story ends at a kite-running contest in America, where Amir makes his first breakthrough with Sohrab.

Discussion Questions: Do you think Amir will ever regain Sohrab’s trust, or will he forever remain withdrawn to Amir?
Guilt is Amir’s driving factor in going to retrieve Sohrab. Do you think that he would have made the journey to save Sohrab if not for the guilt that he had held on to for so long?

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks was a beautiful love story about two individuals, Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton, falling irrevocably in love with eachother. The novel takes place in the coastal region of North Carolina in 1946. It starts off in a nursing home with an old man reading a story to an older women with a forgetful memory. The story that he reads to her is the story of their lives, and reading to her everday he is hoping will freshen up her memory. Allie was part of a rather wealthy family and her parents dissaproved of Noah, who was a very unwealthy country boy. They met one night at a carnival and from then on they were crazy about eachother. That summer they were inseperable, and because of this Allie's parents forced Allie to move away and go to college. Noah writes Allie a letter every day for a year, 365 letters, and she did not receive one of them. Allie, thinking that her and Noah were over, then got engaged to a young soldier named Lon. Meanwhile, Noah still had feelings for his first love and decided to fix up an old home that she had fell in love with years ago. Before her wedding, Allie sees the beautifully finished home in the newpaper with Noah standing in front of it. She then realizes that he still loves her because he fulfilled her promise with the finished home, so she decides to visits him, checking to see that he is okay. After a few days together, Allie realizes that her love for Noah never went away and she blows off the wedding returning into Noah's life for good.

1. Why do you think Allie goes to check on Noah right before her engagement? Do you think she knew what she was getting herself into?

2. Visiting Noah, do you think Allie regrets being married to Lon?

The Shack by William P. Young

The Shack, by William P. Young is a moving story about how a man deals with his daughter's terrible death. The main character's name is Mack, and he has three kids. When the book begins, it mentions that Mack has been working alot, he was picking up overtime to make more money. This implies that Mack had not been spending much time with his children. To make up for this lost time, he decides to take his kids on a camping trip to bond. The kids were excited to spends some quality time with their dad. They go on the camping trip and everything is smooth sailing. They meet another family camping on the same site, and quickly become friends. Mack is relaxing and enjoying the beautiful lake where his two kids are paddling in a kayak. He chuckles as they splash each other with the oars. Suddenly, the kayak tips and his children are thrown underwater, and they cannot tip the kayak back over. Mack, remembering some of his lifeguard skills as a teen, dives into the water and swims toward his kids. He manages to untangle his kids from the canoe in time. As he comes ashore, he looks to find his other daughter, Missy, who was last seen coloring on a picnic bench before all of the commotion. Missy was not on the picnic bench where she was last seen. The other family had not seen the little girl disappear. The two families team up, and search the campsite for the little girl. They search the tents, the showers, her favorite spot, everywhere. But they cannot find Missy anywhere. The police are called and a search party is formed. They search for hours and hours but they cannot find Missy. Mack thinks back and shortly after he discovered Missy is gone he saw a man in a green truck speeding past the campsite, and wonders if that has to do anything with his daughter's disappearance. The authorities find a small pin of a ladybug in Missy's coloring book on the picnic bench. They tell Mack that his daughter was most likely abducted by a serial killer nicknamed, the Little Lady Killer. His trademark was that ladybug pin found in her coloring book. Mack brings up the man in the green truck, and they extend their search radius. They find a fresh pair of tire tracks leading to a very remote trail. The party follows the tracks and come across a very old, rundown and beaten shack, with the door loosely hanging off of it's hinges. The police search the house and what was found was Missy's favorite yellow dress, the one she was last wearing, soaked in her blood. She was presumed dead. Mack was devastated, his little girl was gone. He did not know how to deal with the pain, so his body chose a method for him, depression. He called it, the "Great Sadness". He said as soon as he felt an ounce of happiness, he could feel the Great Sadness wrapping around him, like a blanket of despair. Four long years after his daughter's death, he finds a note in his mailbox. A note telling Mack to go back to the shack in which his daughter was killed. A note, signed by God. Mack had a difficult decision to make, go to the Shack and meet up with this "God", or continue to live his life with the "Great Sadness". He decided to take his chances and go see "God". He comes prepared though, he brings a gun just in case it is someone with means to harm Mack. Mack doesn't tell his wife that he is gone, and goes of on his voyage to the place that caused him the greatest depression of his life. He rolls up to the Shack, and nothing is there. He walks inside. What he finds in the Shack, changes his life forever.

1. What do you think Mack found inside the Shack?
Why do you think that?

2. Do you think that the man in the green truck had anything to do with his daughter's disappearance? Why or why not?