Welcome to Higby
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1. Look at the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. How do they affect your experience of the book? Do you need to be familiar with the Bible to "get" the meaning of the quote both in and out of the context of Welcome to Higby?
2. Who is the central character of Welcome to Higby?
Why? What connects the characters? What archetypes do the characters represent? What is author Mark Dunn telling us about life when Euless inherits a huge fortune?
3. What are the themes of the novel? Were they a surprise to you or what you expected from the beginning?
4. Why do people believe in guardian angels? Why does Carmen? On page 194, what is happening in the story that allows Carmen to say good-bye to hers? Consider Carmen's car crashing into Euless's. Could it have been caused by her guardian angel? Why do you think the crash happens? What is the result of the crash?
5. At the beginning of Welcome to Higby,
why does Clint go up the water tower? Share whether or not you agree with Ponce's take on Clint's climbing, that it "'has nothing to do with adventure'" (page 48), and why. What, if any, is the significance of Clint's falling into a pool?
6. Looking at Chapters 1 through 18, do you have an idea about the race of the characters? What clues does the author provide? Is race important to the story? Why?
7. Thinking about Oren's and Ponce's friendship -- one a preacher, the other an atheist -- discuss Ponce's comments to Oren on page 76 that God might be a crutch that "had not served all that useful a purpose anyway." Why could Oren's belief in God be a crutch? Why is Oren more ready to hear this now rather than earlier?
8. Share your reaction to Talitha's predicament when she signed a contract with the Brothers and Sisters of Redemption. Do you know enough about Talitha to say whether or not she might benefit from such a group? What is the role of this group in Welcome to Higby?
9. Looking at the character's names throughout Welcome to Higby,
why do you think Mark Dunn chose them? How do they reflect or reveal the individual's personality or persona? Discuss what other methods Mark Dunn uses to lay out this story. For example, consider how short chapters affect the story and the reader, and that most chapters begin with a character's name. What are the reasons, if any, for this?
10. In Chapter 42, Oren thinks about being both a father and a minister. Why does he say that these are two of the toughest and most thankless jobs in the world? Discuss whether or not you agree with Oren that Clint doesn't want or need a father, and why. Do you believe that Oren is thinking more about his own feelings than those of his son? Why?
11. Why does Hank have labels on his things (Chapter 49)? What is it about this that makes Tula cry? What is the symbolism of Hank's bassoon?
12. What drives Stewie to go get drunk after he talks to his pastor (page 279)? Should Stewie have been kicked out of the church? Is it an "accident of fate" that brought Stewie to hear Jeannie Plough sing the day after their one night stand?
13. In Chapter 68, both Stewie and Clint climb the water tower. What does the tower represent? Discuss the events on and around the tower on that stormy night, and why you believe Dunn places these two men on the structure at this particular time. What is the symbolism of the lightning striking both the tower and the steeple of Calvary United Christian Church?
14. Looking at Welcome to Higby's
structure and language, including its short chapters, vivid descriptions, and abundant dialogue, how is it like a stage play? How does this story work better as a novel?