Shelter was making the rounds of US publishers, a debate began among editors about whether Irene was a good mother or not. Clearly, the choice she makes to leave the girls alone is not something I’d associate with good mothering, but what about before she leaves?When
At one point in Shelter, Maggie says, “I had the image of Mom as a lake, with Jenny and me bobbing around on her surface, never dreaming, never even wondering about the green depths beneath us.” This sentiment comes partly from my own experience. When my mother died, I felt as if I’d never really known who she was as a woman. Did your experience with your mother differ?
Why do so many novels feature orphan children and/or lost mothers? (eg. the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley; The Girls by Lori Lansens; The Diviners by Margaret Laurence) By the way, if you have an answer, please email me!
What do you think made Irene leave? What emotion ruled her actions?
Maggie is fascinated by Chiwid, the almost-mythological woman who survives outside in any weather. But she can’t decide if she pities or envies her. What do you think she pitied and what did she envy?
Some reviewers have said that the landscape is almost like a character in Shelter. If that’s so, what role does it play in Maggie and Jenny’s life? And how did it correspond to or differ from your own experience?
The men in Shelter are often absent, emotionally or literally. These were the kind of men that peopled my world growing up in the 60s and 70s. They held the power in the family, but they were often on the periphery of family life. What is the effect of their absence in Shelter?
As a first-person narrator, Maggie may not always be completely trustworthy. Were there places in Shelter where you think Maggie sees things inaccurately?
Questions from the author, or what I’d love to talk about if I came to your book club.
Please feel free to contact me by email if you'd like to discuss Shelter with me.
The songs that appear in Shelter are as familiar to me as the sounds of crickets, lawnmowers and mourning doves. They still drop me right back into the 60s and 70s, the time when Maggie and Jenny and I were all growing up. These are not all 60s and 70s songs, but they were on the radio or in the air in those years. I've included here the performances that I was thinking of, rather than the original composers.
Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King
I Got You Babe by Sonny and Cher
Goodnight Irene by Leadbelly
I'll Have Another Cup of Coffee by Conway Twitty
Crocodile Rock by Elton John
Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin
Heartaches By the Number by Ray Price
Dreamer by Supertramp
Bloody Well Right by Supertramp
Break on Through to the Other Side by The Doors
White Room by Cream
Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree by Tony Orlando and Dawn
A Horse with No Name by America
I'll Tell Me Ma (traditional)
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra (An Irish Lullaby) by Bing Crosby
I've Been Everywhere by Hank Snow