Chapter 3: Email from God

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Swedish Again: Chapter-by-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. Who called Anna to tell her that Kevin was sick?
  2. What drew Anna into the conversation with Kevin?
  3. What did Anna do immediately after her conversation with Kevin?
  4. How did Anna feel about Sweden at this time?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you notice anything in Anna’s conversation with Kevin which indicates that they used to be emotionally close? Conversely, is there anything which indicates that they are no longer intimate?
  2. Anna struggles with how to refer to Kevin’s children – “his children,” “my former stepchildren,” etc. Have you ever faced any similar struggles? Are these labels important?
  3. On page 23, it says, “My mom and I were still Swedish in the sense that we usually kept our emotions away from the surface.” What are your thoughts on this? Is this a Swedish thing?
  4. The chapter ends with Anna calling herself greedy and perfectionistic. Based on what you know so far, do you agree with this self-assessment? Why, or why not?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • Sometimes we refer to the material and spiritual worlds as opposites, yet in this chapter, Anna and Sinead reconnect emotionally based on a memory of Halloween candy. In your opinion, can material experiences and/or objects enhance one’s emotional or spiritual life? If so, how?
  • Anna mentions she speaks Swedish “well enough to make casual conversation.” How do you think this will limit her when she goes to Sweden? Is language ability important? If so, in what ways?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

over-priced trinkets at the airport = small, trivial items, such as jewelry (p. 18)

I searched for things to say, rummaging… = searching, digging through a container (p. 20)

I could hear his self-effacing smile = modest, or shy; this can be used when someone jokes about himself or pretends to be shy in order to be charming (p. 20)

I made a mental note = tried to remember (p. 21)

I pictured her = imagined (p.21)

Language Focus:

Describing People

This chapter contains many descriptions of people, which help us understand the characters better. It’s important to notice and understand these adjectives and expressions, especially when there are so many characters, so let’s look at some of them here.

Kevin: lifelong health issues; musician; lilting Irish-Swedish accent

lifelong =lasting for one’s whole life

lilting = the voice rises and falls in a pleasant way

Jenny: oldest (with Canadian husband, Nathan)

James: reserved; older brother to Michael

reserved= slow to reveal emotions or opinions; quiet

Eun-joo: n/a

n/a = “not applicable”; she is not mentioned in this chapter.

Michael: reserved; rarely reached out

reach out = to initiate contact; to call, text, or email

Jillian: n/a

Kevin’s children: boisterous teenagers

boisterous = noisy, energetic, cheerful

Cara: “put on the youngest two” (She’s helping.); on the phone constantly with Anna

Sean: now 19; had his father’s voice; sounded soft and open

soft = gentle

open = willing to talk and not hide emotions or opinions

Deirdre: now 18; sounded soft and open

Fionn: same soft, shy tone as before; voice of a young man; willing to talk

tone (of voice) = sound; general attitude

Sinead: animated and eager; remembered Halloween

animated = full of life or excitement

eager = very interested; enthusiastic

Rory: was a kindergartener at Sea-Tac Airport  

Anna’s mother: retired family matriarch; was (formerly) a PhD student, medical physicist; usually kept emotions away from the surface

retired = not working anymore, usually due to age

matriarch = the female leader of a family

Answers to Part 1

  1. Michael, her son who lived in Sweden.
  2. “unfinished business”
  3. She called Kevin’s children.
  4. She felt uncomfortable. When she went there, she felt stupid and had to fight off ghosts from her childhood.

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