Reading Group Guide
Last Light over
Mary Alice Monroe
On an otherwise ordinary day in a small shrimping village off the coast of
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. In chapter one, we see Bud Morrison making his way through a typical morning on the McClellanville docks. What does this scene tell you about his relationships with family and friends, and about the citizens of McClellanville?
2. Bud and
3. On pages 89-90, Lizzy’s friend and employer, Nancy, gives her relationship advice and reminds her that shrimping families stick together. “It’s our way,” she says. Where else does this clannish sentiment appear throughout the novel? Identify the moments in which it is expressed or thought and discuss how it relates to the situation at hand. How do you feel about it as an explanation for certain behavior or opinions?
4. This novel explores the challenges of a long term marriage. Joseph Campbell wrote:
Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn’t that. That is a relationship of pleasure, and when it gets to be unpleasurable, it’s off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the prime concern of your life. If marriage is not the prime concern, you are not married.”
Discuss this quote in context of Bud and
6. Themes of love and hope run through the novel. Identify some of the ways in which these emotions play a role in the character’s lives and influence the decisions they make. How does love play a role in forgiveness? Compare and contrast the theories various characters, such as
7. In part, an old community with a long standing sense of tradition brings with it fixed values that in time become old fashioned and maybe even inappropriate. Identify the ways in which women’s roles are defined in McClellanville. How do the women meet or defy the expectations of their community? How do you see male/female conflict or collaboration at work in the novel?
9. On page 114, Bud proudly informs Mr. Brailsford that the shrimpers have “an exclusive club” of their own with their own code. Based on the author’s portrayal of this community, what would you say some of the rules of this code are? Do these rules have a pragmatic purpose? Discuss in terms of how the community of shrimpers respond to Bud being “overdue” at the docks.
11. What “old resentment” (p 4) keeps Bud from kissing
12. We see Bud struggling to maintain consciousness on page 292, shouting out to the Miss Carolina about the unfairness of his situation. But though he begins by talking to the vessel, he ends by saying, “I loved you,
13. Bud journeys through several emotional stages as he approaches the possibility of death. Dr. Kubler-Ross describes these stages of grief as: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Discuss Bud’s process, as well as his enlightenment at the story’s end concerning his relationship with his wife, his family, life.
14. Near the conclusion of the novel, we see the inhabitants of McClellanville celebrate the Blessing of the Fleet, a ritual the author describes as “based on the belief that all people were called upon by God to be good to one another and responsible stewards of the earth.” (p 361). Yet the shrimpers of McClellanville express hostility toward the Department of Natural Resources, a group devoted to conservation efforts in the region. Discuss why shrimpers and DNR and other government officials sometimes clash.
15. As deeply as their love and shared history connects them, Bud and
16. Mr. Dunnan tells Lizzy that sometimes change is just a second chance. Who gets a second chance in this novel and who doesn’t? How do these opportunities change or fail to change people’s lives?
Tips to Enhance Your Bookclub
- Celebrate the livelihood of McClellanville’s shrimpers by treating your book club to shrimp cocktails at your next meeting. Better yet, have everyone prepare and bring a different shrimp dish to share. You can find some southern recipes for shrimp at http://southernfood.about.com/od/shrimprecipes/a/top_shrimp.htm.
- Every town or region has pride in its heritage, whether it’s an annual produce-based festival or emphasis on supporting a local industry. Find out what your area considers part of its historical identity and share a piece of that with your book club via a brief presentation, photos, or something tangible such as a recipe or product you can show.
- The author’s website features “Journals” illustrated by photographs of her beloved
low country. Get a real vision of the setting for Last Light over Carolina and learn more about the author by visiting her website at www.maryalicemonroe.com. South Carolina