Questions for Understanding
- Which Swedish word confused Anna while she was teaching? Why?
- When Anna asked to see her coworker’s reports, what did she need?
- What happened in 2015 to cause a huge change in Anna’s life?
- How old was Anna when she first moved to America as a child?
Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion
- What part of the Prologue struck you the most? Why? What do you think this part tells us about the main character (Anna)?
- In the first scene, we see that being bilingual can sometimes led to confusion. Do you have any personal experience with this? What are your experiences with learning English or a language other than English?
Ideas for Further Consideration
- When you think of the word “immigration,” what images come to mind? What kinds of feelings do these images provoke?
- Why do you think the author chose to write this prologue instead of putting this information into the chapters later? Do you think this introductory information is helpful?
Especially for English Language Learners
Key Words and Expressions:
“My heart started racing.” = My heart started beating fast. (page 1)
“I squared my shoulders.” = I stood up straight, making my body strong. (page 1)
“a game of 52 Pick-Up” = a game bullies play with a deck of cards. The bully throws the cards in the air, and then the other person has to pick them up. (page 3)
“underage” = under 18 years old (page 3)
“I put down roots.” = I settled down. I stopped moving. (page 4)
Past Perfect Tense in Storytelling
When you read a story which is written in the past tense, it is common to see a tense called past perfect. This means something happened before the past tense action.
The form of the past perfect is HAD + PAST PARTICIPLE:
= had been (married)
= had (not) spoken
= had petered out
The form of the simple past is just VERB:
= was, were
Here is an example from page 3, with explanations:
I was living in Seattle with my newly adult children, and Kevin was in Stockholm with his six, three of whom were still underage. (This is happening “now” in the story. It is simple past tense.) We had been married for only two years and hadn’t spoken to each other in the four years since then, except for a brief phone call as he lay dying. (This happened before the “now” of the story. It happened in the past-past. It uses past perfect tense.) Our contact had petered out after I sent our then 16-year-old son, Michael, over to live with him. (This also happened in the past-past, before the main story. You may notice that the main clause is in past perfect and the time clause, starting with “after I sent…” is in simple past. The time clause is not the main clause of the sentence.) When Kevin died, my distraught son and former stepchildren lived across the ocean from my home. (Now we are back at the “now” of the story. This is in simple past tense.)
Answers to Part 1
- Pryl. She thought that it sounded like the English word, “pearl,” but it actually meant “gadget.”
- She needed Swedish spelling and vocabulary.
- Her second ex-husband, Kevin, died of cancer in Sweden.
- She was six years old.