The Christian Fiction Book Club will be meeting here at My Only Vice on November 5th to discuss Dancing on Glass by Pamela Ewen. All are welcome to participate. Feel free to join us that day to discuss the book. I'll have a place for you to link your review and answers. You can choose as many of the discussion questions as you would like. Answer them and post them, link up and we will hop around that day to discuss the book.
The author has kindly sent me an introduction and the questions:
FROM THE AUTHOR:
SPOILER ALERT: These questions will give away surprises in the story.
Don’t peek until you’ve finished!
In Dancing on Glass we’re probing some knotty questions together: the secrets many women keep hidden away in the privacy of home, secrets that only sometimes seep into the open. The question is why do some women with every opportunity to leave abusive relationships (whether emotionally or physically abusive) stand by their man no matter what?
I think understanding is the key to prevention. Amalise Catoir is a woman who made a commitment too soon. In Dancing on Glass Amalise is honest, strong, self-confident. She had a happy childhood. (This is not the Burning Bed) But she’s also compassionate, with that full-blown nurturing instinct. Her bad choices lead to difficult consequences. So I asked myself, what causes a strong and independent woman to become trapped in such a manipulative relationship? And what part does faith and God’s grace play in all of this?
AND NOW FOR THE QUESTIONS:
Here are some questions you might like to think through. Pick them all, or pick a few. And contact me(Author Pamela Ewen) through my web site at www.pamelaewen.com if you’d like to discuss them together!
1. In the first chapter of Dancing on Glass, Amalise is introduced to Phillip Sharp through his paintings on show in Porter Gallery, on Royal Street. Often the work of an artist reflects the mind of its creator. What warning do the paintings offer at first glance to Amalise about the artist’s character? What are some other clues to his character that emerge early on in the story—warning signs?
2. Have you ever had a friend like Jude—someone you’ve grown up with, who knows you inside out, and who you’re certain you can trust? Yet Amalise ignores Judes’s advice—why do you think she reacts like this?
3. Read pages 28-29. Amalise tells Phillip about a puppy she saved from cruel treatment by a group of young boys. Mama had never allowed pets in the house, but she made an exception for this one, named Sally. Amalise describes the relationship between herself, Sally, and Mama, using the words ‘love,’ ‘grace’, and ‘redemption’. Why do you think that she described these events this way? Do you remember moments in your own life that held the same special ‘circle of grace’? How do you think this relates to God’s grace toward us?
4. Amalise’s background in the small town of Marianus is described in several parts of the book. What impact did her natural optimism and her fascination with movies at the Regal Theater when she was young have on her attraction to Phillip Sharp? What part does the ‘observer’ in her mind play in this theme throughout the story? Have you noticed an ‘observer’ in your own mind from time to time?
i. Have you ever been in a relationship that you’ve embellished in your mind, or idealized someone? Why is that sometimes harmful?
5. Phillip not only paints, he also carves miniature figures from wood. When he moves in with Amalise, she suggests that he bring the carvings with him, and he says he’s thrown them all away. He’ll carve new ones. Same with the carvings he’s left at home in New York. What clue does this give you to Phillip’s personality? (Recall Jude’s conversation with Joanna in Porter Gallery).
6. Review pages 55-58. As Phillip’s complex character begins to unfold, how does Amalise’s response foreshadow problems she encounters with Phillip later on in their relationship? Can you spot other scenes in the story where her desire to maintain illusion compounds the problem?
7. Throughout the story the tragedy of the children in Vietnam and Cambodia in the early nineteen seventies plays out on the nightly television news. Review Chapter Twenty-One and contrast the various reactions to this situation from Phillip, Amalise, and Jude. What does this tell you about Phillip’s character?
· On page 157 Amalise reflects on conversations she’s had with Jude in the past about why bad things happen in God’s world. What do you think of Jude’s answer?
8. Several times Amalise senses that Phillip is spying on her, or that he has lied and each time Phillip is able to deflect the suspicion by turning it around, by causing her to question herself instead. What are some examples of the techniques that Phillip uses in the story to accomplish this psychological confusion?
9. The ancient Greeks placed the concept of love into four categories: friendship; natural affection, such as maternal and familial love; passionate or sensual love; and God’s love. Which category most closely fits the bond that ties Amalise to Phillip? (Clue: My opinion? Not the obvious.) In your opinion, what category most closely fits the bond that Amalise feels for Jude?
10. Phillip says to Amalise: “When you’re not with me, I’m not alive…I don’t exist without you.” Variations of that thought appear throughout the book. What does Phillip mean by this? How does this affect Amalise’s emotional bond to her husband in the relationship?
11. Women today have choices about our lives that our grandmothers never had. A recent study at UC Hastings Law School found that in the current recession more than 50% of the jobs in 2011 are held by women, and statistically women working outside the home in two-income families are earning more than their working husbands. And yet women are still struggling to balance jobs and home life. Over time Phillip’s demands on Amalise’s increase. Once she’s a full-fledged lawyer at Mangen & Morris, her old habit of prioritizing expands into an attempt to balance home and her career by compartmentalizing. Do you think this was effective, given the situation and her relationship with Phillip?
i. Whether working inside or outside the home, how do you find balance in your life?
12. And, women today are strong, self-confident, strengthened by our new opportunities and independence. Yet we’re also still the softer sex, nurturing, with instincts to protect those who are weaker. I call that the ‘double-bind’. In the end Amalise decides, regarding her relationship with Phillip, that ‘pity was the trap’. Do you agree with this concept of the double-bind and relationships. Recall Phillip’s acts of cutting himself with the carving knife during the story. Do you think the double-bind made Amalise a perfect target for Phillip’s manipulation, or do you think her vulnerability was fed by something else?
13. Did Dancing on Glass offer any new insight for you as to why strong women sometimes stand by their man no matter what? Do you believe that Christian faith requires this in a relationship like Amalise and Phillip’s?
14. Just for fun: On the cover – do you notice anything unusual about the red umbrella?
Go out and grab your copy of the book today and plan on joining us November 5th right here at My Only Vice!