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Reading Group Guide (FINAL) Something Rising (Light and Swift) Haven Kimmel 1. The prologue immediately places us in Cassie's world of playing pool for money. Why do you think Cassie plays? Is it really about the money? 2. In Part I of the novel, Jimmy tells Cassie: "You know you're my favorite, Cassie, although God knows that ain't saying much." Discuss Cassie's relationship with her father, Jimmy. How does it serve as the basis for the way she relates to men in general? 3. When the sisters are younger, Cassie suggests that Edwin's routine presence is because he loves their mother, Laura. But Belle "said he came for other reasons and he was Pure." What do you think Belle means? Why do you suppose Belle and Edwin suddenly married? Could it be that Edwin was courting Belle all along? 4. In Part III of the novel, the narrator comments: "Laura's unhappiness was her religion." How does religion factor into Cassie's life? Has she any faith? Is there anything she considers "holy"? 5. Cassie is known for her belligerence; by the tenth grade she "had been expelled six times for fighting." Nevertheless, when Jimmy files motions to relinquish his paternal responsibility, Cassie refuses Edwin's offer to fight the claim. Cassie asks herself, "What was there to fight?" Why do you think she gives up on Jimmy? How do you explain her indifference? Has she already won the so-called fight? 6. Belle is an interesting character study, especially compared to her sister, Cassie. What drives Belle? Are she and Cassie alike at all? Emotionally abandoned by their parents, in what ways do Belle and Cassie support and comfort each other? 7. The novel's title, Something Rising (Light and Swift), comes from a photocopied book excerpt that Cassie finds in Laura's journal. Explain the significance of the title. How does it relate to the novel and the events within? What is the rattlesnake kite a metaphor for? 8. The theme of death and dying resonates throughout the novel. Discuss some of the ways it appears in the novel. How does Cassie deal with death? 9. Throughout the novel there is no mention of Cassie relating intimately with others. In fact, she seems quite closed off to affection somewhat like her mother, Laura, who "didn't like to touch or be touched." Yet, at the age of thirty, Cassie meets Thomas in New Orleans and falls in love almost instantly. Why do you think Cassie is suddenly open to Thomas and to the prospect of love, in general? 10. Uncle Bud, along with Edwin and Poppy, acts as a surrogate father to Cassie. When she shares her decision to go to New Orleans to see her mother's home and Cassie's would-be father, Uncle Bud warns against it, claiming that it's "The Worst Thing That Can Happen ToYou." Why do you think it's so important for Cassie to meet, play and beat Jackson LaFollette? Despite Uncle Bud's warning, how does the trip impact Cassie's life? 11. The fortune teller, Alan, whom Cassie encounters on the streets of New Orleans, reveals a great deal about her life. At one point he tells her: "You pride yourself on being free ofŠthe chains of femininity." Discuss Cassie's lack of femininity. How does it help her negotiate in the world from which Belle and Laura have passively withdrawn? 12. The novel ends with Cassie heading to New Orleans in a new truck packed with her meager possessions, two guns and $300,000 cash. What do you foresee in Cassie's future?
Haven Kimmel is the author of The Used World, She Got Up Off the Couch, Something Rising (Light and Swift), The Solace of Leaving Early, and A Girl Named Zippy. She studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University and attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Durham, N.C.