Chapter 2: Heartbroken

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Swedish Again: Chapter-by-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. Which musical instrument did Jillian play, and what was the joke about it?
  2. Why was Anna worried about Michael?
  3. Who was Anna’s oldest child, and where did she work?
  4. At the end of this chapter, what did Anna wish God would do?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. This chapter is called Heartbroken. What are the elements of that heartbreak? How does she attempt to cope with her feelings of loss?
  2. In this chapter, we get to know Anna’s children a little better. Do any of the children remind you of someone you know? Why?
  3. On page 9, it says, “True to our family culture, she ignored my flat expression and pretended nothing was wrong with me.” What do you think this says about their family culture? Where do you think this comes from?
  4. When Anna took four of her children on pilgrimage, she said it was supposed to be her last act as a parent. Do you think it’s possible for parenting to end? If so, which age or life event might mark that end?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • In this chapter, we get a glimpse into Anna’s inner coping strategies. At one time, she lies in bed and pictures her stepchildren. At another, she says, “fake it till you make it.” At yet another, she prays. Which of these inner strategies for coping with stress can you relate to? Do you have others?
  • In the last scene, Anna and her coworker joke about God sending an email. In other words, she wants clear direction. Do you think that life (or God) gives us direction? Are there certain things we are meant to do, or is the navigation of our lives completely our own?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

Instead of protecting my kids, I sent out feeble messages like this. I stared at the wall and loathed myself. I must have done something wrong. I felt nauseated…Were we just powerless victims of life, leaves to be blown around at the will of a capricious force? (p. 11)

“feeble” = weak, lacking strength

“loathed” = hated; felt disgusted by

“nauseated” = sick; feeling like you might vomit

“capricious” = (someone whose) behavior and/or mood changes suddenly and unpredictably

Grammar Focus:

Would in Storytelling

The word “would” is used for many things in English. In storytelling, when the main story is told in the past tense, it means “will.” In other words, it means future.

p. 11

…but with Kevin gone, how would things go for him now?

= “How will things go for him now?”

I was afraid Michael would feel like a physical link between Kevin and me.

= “Will Michael feel like a physical link between Kevin and me?”

p. 12

How would I walk? How would I hold my children?

= “How will I walk? How will I hold my children?”

Here is another simple example. Remember, the main story is in the past, and the narrator is looking at the future.

I sat down and made a list of things to buy for the party. I would go to the supermarket first. Then I would stop by the bakery to pick up the cake. Finally, I would go to the florist for the bouquet I had ordered.

Answers to Part 1

  1. She played the tuba. It was a joke because Anna rushed home on Fridays to drive it to Jillian’s private lesson, while Jillian went there separately.
  2. She worried that he would feel torn between her and Kevin (among other things.)
  3. Jenny was the oldest. She was a university student who worked at Starbucks.
  4. She wished God would send her an email.

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