Q Road

A Novel

Q Road

Combining the modern-farm-life realities of Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres with the quirky humor and eccentric characters of Carolyn Chute's The Beans of Egypt, Maine, Q Road is a charming debut from Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Greenland Township, Michigan: On the same acres where farmers once displaced Potawatomi Indians, suburban developers now supplant farmers and prefab homes spring up in last year's cornfields. All along Q Road—or “Queer Road,” as the locals call it—the old, rural life collides weirdly with the new.

With a cast of lovingly rendered eccentrics and a powerful sense of place, Q Road is a lively tale of nature and human desire that alters the landscape of contemporary fiction.
  • Scribner | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743203661 | 
  • August 2003
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
Q Road

Discussion Points
  1. Campbell begins and ends her book with depictions of woolly bears. What do these orange-and-black caterpillars symbolize? What other symbols or metaphors recur throughout Q Road?
  2. In addition to the three central personalities (Rachel, George, and David), Q Road has quite a few supporting characters. How does the story benefit from Elaine Shore's alien fixation or Johnny Harland's swaggering confidence? What do you learn about Greenland Township through Mary O'Kearsy or Milton Taylor? Why do you suppose the author created such a sprawling cast?
  3. In chapter 20, Elaine Shore's lawyer dubs her a "pioneer" for her attempts to bring "civilization" to Q Road. What compels people like Elaine and the Hoekstras to move to rural areas? How do you explain their reaction to the unexpected "disorder" of their rural neighborhood? Analyze the omniscient narrator's tone in chapter 20 and at other points in the novel that address the development of former farmland.
  4. Rachel is an unconventional, abrasive young woman. Is it still possible to identify or sympathize with her? Why or why not? How and why has she come to love George Harland's land so much?
  5. In chapter 3, Margo says to Rachel, "I thought I could raise a girl to be something on her own, but you act no better than a creature clawing its way up the riverbank to get caught in so
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About the Author

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell has won a Pushcart Prize, as well as the Associated Writing Programs Award in short fiction for her story collection, Women and Other Animals. She lives a few miles from where she was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. To learn more, visit BonnieJoCampbell.com.