Girl in the Photo Discussion Qs

Book Club Discussion Questions
Getting Oriented: A Novel About Japan
by Wally Wood
1.     At the start of the novel, Abbie and David find out that their father, Dr. Robert Emmerling, has died. How does their relationship as sister and brother affect their reactions to his death? What feelings about their father does this situation stir up?

2.     A secret that their father kept for more than 50 years comes to light as Abbie and David sift through the contents of their childhood home. How does this secret influence the siblings’ decisions and actions during the novel?

3.     Readers learn about Robert’s secret at the same time that Abbie and David do, through materials that they discover in their father’s study. How does the structure of the book add to the suspense of this revelation? What do you think of the technique used to reveal the story of Robert’s secret life?

4.     Do the voices of David, Abbie, and Robert seem individual and distinctive? How would you characterize each? How do their past interactions (brother and sister, son and father, daughter and father) influence what they do in the course of the novel? What about the role of the mother in this family?

5.     Abbie has a more fraught relationship with her daughter Lisa than David has with his daughter Kayla. Why? How do these relationships evolve as the novel progresses?

6.     Late in the novel, Abbie and David move toward a pivotal decision about their father’s secret life in Japan. Do you agree with the course of action they ultimately choose? Is the family united in this decision? Would you have made the same decision?

7.     The effect of death on a family is one thread that runs through this novel. Another theme is that we can never really know another person’s most private thoughts, feelings, desires, and motivations. How do these two powerful undercurrents affect the main characters and propel the story forward in specific scenes? Can you relate to these themes in your own life?

8.     Which character(s) did you find the most appealing or sympathetic? The least appealing or sympathetic? Did your opinion of some characters change as you continued to read? In what way?

9.     Which scenes from this novel were particularly memorable or affecting, and why? How did the author add to the impact of these scenes through character, conflict, unexpected developments, or setting?

10.  Were you surprised by the ending? Did you find it satisfying? What do you think the future holds for Abbie and David and their families?