Episode 17: Peter Heller


Discussion Questions

  •  What tone does the opening scene of the book set for the rest of the story, in both establishing the atmosphere and its main themes and characters?
  • Discuss the different, and even opposite, sides of Celine’s and Pete’s personalities—their hard-edged, more masculine sides and their softer, artistic, and sensitive sides. How do their careers allow both of those sides to prosper, and what does their unique relationship suggest about what they love about each other? How does the couple balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses to make for an effective partnership at home and in work? Does either of them seem more dominant in either space?
  • How does Celine’s complicated experience with motherhood motivate her work as a private investigator? Did you feel that that blurring of professional and personal lines enhanced or hindered her relationship with her clients—especially with Gabriela?
  • Celine imagines that for Gabriela home is a “space within the relative safety of her own skin.” Celine may share this sensibility to some degree. Which of her actions, tendencies, and memories in the book are most reflective of this very private and self-protective mindset?
  • How does an urban versus a rural setting bring out different sides of different characters, especially Celine’s? Can you track a progression of what kinds of places they settle in depending on their moods and mindsets, or is their mood more affected by where they are at any given time?
  • What service does Celine offer her clients on a more psychological level, beyond her unearthing of the facts of certain mysteries in their lives? Do you think she absorbs their secrets and suffering, and, if so, how does that motivate her to continue to the next case, even at the age of sixty-eight?
  • How does Hank take up the work of emotional excavation and investigation on his mother, perhaps work she’s unable to do herself? What does this suggest about our abilities to confront our own pasts with clear eyes?

 


Book Club Bites

Whether you’re gathering with a group, or reading solo, try our recommendations for a cocktail and snack that pair perfectly with the book.


Book Club Extras

Spotify Playlist


PETER HELLER is the best-selling author of The Painter and The Dog Stars. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in both fiction and poetry. An award-winning adventure writer and a longtime contributor to NPR, Heller is a contributing editor at Outside magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure, and a regular contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek. He is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Kook, The Whale Warriors, and Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River. He lives in Denver, Colorado.