Green Grass Grace

A Novel

Green Grass Grace

Henry "Hank" Toohey, a thirteen-year-old altar boy, is an incessant smart-ass with a deep love of life...and other four-letter words. But with his foul mouth comes a heart of gold, and he's going to need it to get through the last weekend of summer 1984.
Everyone up and down St. Patrick Street, Henry's claustrophobic Irish-Catholic block in Philadelphia -- with its seventy-eight row homes, seventy-eight skinny mile-high lawns, seventy-eight statues of saints, and seventy-eight Mondale-Ferraro signs -- knows that the Toohey family is falling apart. Henry's mailman father is having an affair with a neighbor lady right under his mother's nose. His big brother has been a drunken mess since his girlfriend died. And his little sister is counting on him to keep her laughing through it all. But Henry has a plan to pull the family back together: He'll propose to his chain-smoking fourteen-year-old girlfriend, Grace McClain, at a neighborhood wedding. To prepare, he and his ragtag group of friends pinball around the streets, making elaborate plans for his proposal, riding bikes, rating breasts, bothering the local merchants, talking trash about Mike Schmidt and Bob Seger, and kissing behind the seafood-store dumpster.
Gritty, giddy, and bursting with Henry's boundless energy, Green Grass Grace is a heart-thumping rocket ride back to adolescence that is riotously funny and tragic at the same time.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743223119 | 
  • March 2003
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Discussion Points
1. In a rapid staccato style salted with curses and slang, Henry Toohey brings his own story to life in Green Grass Grace. How would you describe the book's tone and language -- and, by association, Henry? Did the writing style or Henry remind you of any other books or characters?
2. Why do you think the author chose to set the novel in 1984? How does this time period shape these characters and their outlook? How might this neighborhood have been different if the story had been set in the present day?
3. In what ways could this Philadelphia neighborhood be seen as a character in its own right? What's the personality of the neighborhood? How are the troubles that Henry's family is experiencing characteristic of -- or distinct from -- the problems facing the entire community?
4. Even more than most teenagers, Henry is very concerned about his personal style. Describe the image he's crafted for himself. Do you think other characters see him the same way he sees himself?
5. While Henry presents himself as wise beyond his thirteen years, his romantic and idealistic take on the world doesn't always match reality. In what instances does he accidentally reveal his naivete? How has he changed by the story's end? Do you think he'll lose his romantic optimism as he grows up?
6. How does the author use humor -- especially in describing Henry and hi see more

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