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The Brambles
by Minot, Eliza
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1. The Brambles begins and ends with women in the garden: Florence in the opening scene and Margaret in the final one. Why would Minot frame the novel in this way?

2. How does Eliza Minot manage to create such a rich and complex portrait of family life, with all its joys, frustrations, and tenderness in The Brambles? What is it that makes her writing so convincing and so resonant?

3. What role do secrets play in The Brambles? Who keeps secrets? What effects do they have? What happens when these secrets are revealed?

4. Margaret asks what difference she is making in the world and answers herself with a series of rhetorical questions: Wasn't it good enough to be raising three kids, giving as much as she could to them, as often as she was able? Wasn't it good enough to be nursing her father, bringing him to the house? [p. 171]. Does Margaret think of herself as a martyr? What is the larger value of family life, of caring for one's family, as it is presented in the novel?

5. As she's about to dive into the ocean, Edie asks herself "Isn't this what life is for? To do things you want to do as long as you don't hurt anyone or hurt yourself?" [p. 196]. How does her attitude toward life differ from her sister's?

6. In what ways are Max, Margaret, and Edie self-absorbed? In what ways are they compassionate and concerned with others? In what ways do they try to deal with the grief over the recent and sudden death of their mother and the imminent death of their father?

7. What is so touching and powerful about the way Margaret's children--Florence, Stephen, and Sarah--relate to their grandfather and his dying?

8. What effect does their father's death have on Max, Margaret, and Edie? How does it change their sense of themselves and how they want to live their lives?

9. What small moments of daily life, and the consciousness of her characters as they are immersed in their daily lives, does Minot capture especially vividly? In what ways is her writing remarkably true to life?

10. How are the Bramble siblings affected by discovering, belatedly, the truth of their origins? Why would their parents have kept this secret from them for so long? [Discussion questions from Random House--Vintage Books.]

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