Chapter 23: Duct Tape Forever

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide


Questions for Understanding

  1. Which items “told” Anna she was back in North America?
  2. How did exhaustion affect Anna’s body shortly after she arrived in Canada?
  3. When trying to secure health insurance in America, what did Anna tell herself?
  4. Did Cara attend Fionn’s graduation?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. Why do you think the title of this chapter is Duct Tape Forever? What does the phrase remind you of? Do you think it’s amusing, sad, or something else?
  2. It’s 2018. How is Anna’s visit to Canada similar to her visit in 2016? How is it different?
  3. Describe Fionn’s graduation. Is this what you expected to happen?
  4. The chapter (and book) end with a conversation between Anna and her coworker. Describe the coworker’s reaction Anna’s story and Anna’s response to that reaction.
  5. As a reader, does the ending satisfy you? Why, or why not? If you met the author of this story, what would you want to ask?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • When you consider the end to this story, would you say Anna returned to her previous life, or would you say she created yet another new life? Why?
  • Based on what you’ve learned about Anna’s life in Sweden, what do you think will be her biggest challenges as she resettles in the US? What will be easy for her?
  • How do you think she will balance her large, international family now that she has moved back to the US? How would you do it?
  • Would describe this story as primarily an emotional story, a spiritual story, or an adventure? What makes you think so?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

“…clear packing tape.” = wide, clear tape which is used for packages. Anna is using it instead of duct tape, which is thicker. (p. 238)

“…I straddled precariously…” = stood with legs apart, looking like she might fall (p. 238)

“…the Stephen King novel…” = the popular book. Stephen King is a popular American writer who often writes horror novels. This was a book called Mr. Mercedes. (p. 239)

Finding Dory” = a popular animated movie for small children

Grammar Focus:

Using Dashes to Express Age

When expressing someone’s age in writing, sometimes we use dashes and sometimes we don’t. Here are some guidelines and examples:


Use dashes when the number phrase is an adjective. This usually means the phrase comes before a noun.


a six-year-old immigrant

an 18-year-old student

a two-year-old child

… my 22-year-old granddaughter… (p. 238)

No Dash

Don’t use a dash when using the phrase to finish a sentence or clause.


I came to America when I was six years old.

At that time, my granddaughter was 22 months old.

When Anna left Sweden, Sinead was 15 years old.

When Danny was a month old… (p. 342)

Answers to Part 1

  1. “The cushioned wall-to-wall carpeting, the humid blast of Ontario’s spring heat wave, the sweet flow of maple syrup on toaster waffles, and the floral scent of Costco laundry detergent…”
  2. She became very sick, with vomiting and diarrhea.
  3. Every choice has its consequences, Anna. Deal with it.
  4. No, she was in Greece. She and Anna spoke by phone.

Chapter 22: Trouble at Home

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. Why couldn’t Jenny get a same day passport at the airport?
  2. Who called Anna from Seattle the night she returned to Stockholm?
  3. What was Eun-joo’s nickname while growing up?
  4. Did Sinead and Anna enjoy each other’s company when they visited Seattle?
  5. Who took Anna to the airport train?
  6. How did she feel when she sat on the plane to leave Sweden?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. Let’s review what’s happening with all the kids, both American and Swedish at this point. How are Fionn and Sinead doing?
  2. What does Anna’s transition to moving back look like? How long does it take for the transition to be accomplished?
  3. Where does Anna fly to on May 4th (before Seattle) and why?
  4. At the end of the chapter, it seems that Anna is both exhausted and satisfied. Which events do you think led to each feeling?
  5. If you reached the end of this type of adventure, how do you think you would feel?
  6. Do you think it is significant that Michael is the one who sees Anna off? Why, or why not?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • This international family traveled a lot to meet each other at a wedding. Is this something typical in your family as well? Do people ever assemble from all over? If so, at what kind of events does this happen?
  • Do you think Anna made the right decision in going back? Why, or why not?
  • Anna says, “I had moved enough times in my life to know that each move changed me and that I wasn’t the same person today that I was when I left Seattle in 2015.” Do you agree? When we move, does it change us? How has this been true in your own life?
  • At the very end, Anna tells herself she had no choice. Then she forces herself to focus on the future instead of the past. In which ways is this attitude typical of her way of dealing with emotions throughout the story? Can you relate to that, or do you face emotions differently?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

“…she could reason herself out of depression.” = she could use logic to relieve her depression (p. 228)

“…suited her temperament perfectly.” = was a good match to her personality (p. 228)

“She stood cheesing up at the camera…” = She stood smiling like she was saying “Cheese” for the camera (p. 229)

“…would be able to handle regular school.” = would be able to do well and succeed in regular school. (p.228)

Grammar Focus:

Gerunds and Infinitives

Verb forms are important in English, and one constant source of confusion is when to use a gerund (-ing form) and when to use an infinitive (to + plain verb.) This is a grammar point which usually requires memorization because some expressions use one while some use another. Let’s take a look at an explanation and some examples from this chapter.


Gerunds are verbs that act like nouns. They take the -ing form.

Example: Swimming is fun.

Example: I like shopping.

Example: We enjoy eating out.


These are verbs which begin with “to.”

Example: I need to go.

Example: We are required to attend.

Example: I am planning to move.

She was also four months’ pregnant and planning to move back to Canada a few days after the wedding. I felt sorry for her and wanted to help her during those busy days… (p. 224)

Since Korea required people to leave the country on the same passport they had entered with, showing them her American one did no good. (p. 225)

TIP: To learn gerunds and infinitives, pay attention to the word just before. Some words use gerunds, some use infinitives, and some use either one (either as an option or with a change in meaning.)

Example: LIKE

I like to swim.

I like swimming.

These mean the same thing.

Example: STOP

I stopped smoking last year.

I saw an accident, so I stopped (my car) to see what was going on.

The first one means an action stopped (smoking). The second one means the person stopped moving in order to do something (to see).

Answers to Part 1

  1. It was Christmas Day.
  2. Bruce, Eun-joo’s former boyfriend.
  3. President of Mom’s Fanclub
  4. No, they argued almost the whole time.
  5. Michael
  6. both exhausted and satisfied

Chapter 21: A Decision and a Crisis

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. What thing about modern Sweden did not make sense to Anna’s mother?
  2. Was Mom’s three-month visit a success?
  3. What was going on with Jenny (Anna’s oldest daughter) at this point?
  4. What event happened in Sweden when Anna was visiting Seattle?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. In this chapter, Anna makes a decision. What is it, and why do you think she makes it? How is it related to the idea of “home”?
  2. Anna reflects, “I already had a life!” In her case, what is the life she has already built up, and what would the new life look like?
  3. Anna reacts to the crisis in Sweden by asking the kids to get tested for meningitis. How do you think you would have reacted to this situation?
  4. How do you think Yadine’s death affects the family? What do you think the long term effects might be?
  5. Regarding the very last line of the chapter, what do you think will become of Sinead if Anna moves back to America?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • This chapter describes both an identity crisis and a sudden death. How do sudden events shape our destiny? Have you ever faced any similar situations?
  • It turns out the cause for Yadine’s death is never fully disclosed because her family declined an autopsy. What are your thoughts on that decision? Do you think you would have decided likewise?
  • Anna reacts to her intense emotions by overeating on cake. What are some common ways to react to crisis? Do you think she could have done something more effective (better) at this point? Why, or why not?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

“a deductible” = an amount of money you pay before insurance covers costs (p. 211)

She kept defaulting to English” = She kept switching to English; she spoke English as her most comfortable language. (p. 212)

“…it triggered her.” = It caused an action or an emotion. Here, it caused her to switch to English. (p. 212)

“venturing out on her own.” = going outside alone (p. 213)

Language Focus:

“Talking to Oneself” in Italics

In novels, it is common for the narrator (the one telling the story) to make side comments to express thoughts or inner conversation. In some publications, such as this one, italics are used to show such thoughts or conversation. Here are examples from this chapter, but it occurs throughout the book:

Well, yeah, Mom. You’re not a resident here. You don’t have the right to free medical care. That’s why we got you travel medical insurance in America for your trip over here. (p.210)

That’s $240. Could be worse, I thought. In America it would be worse! (p.211)

C’mon, Anna, snap out of it! You were born for adventure. Carpe diem and all that stuff! (p. 214)

Note: Italics are also used to mark non-English words, so not every italicized word or phrase is inner dialog.

Answers to Part 1

  1. It’s the idea that she might have to pay for medical care.
  2. No. Anna found it hard to imagine settling in Sweden with her.
  3. She was pregnant with her second child.
  4. Cara and Deirdre’s roommate suddenly died.

Chapter 20: Hometown Feelings

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. How did Anna feel as she stood on the cobblestones eating ice cream?
  2. Which two things did Farmor promise to buy for Anna after she won the lottery?
  3. What did Anna conclude about her father’s attitude to fatherhood?
  4. Which event happened just after Anna returned to Stockholm?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. What part of Anna’s visit back to her hometown struck you the most? Why?
  2. Have you ever returned to a place (such as a hometown) after many years away? If so, what kinds of thoughts and feelings did the return provoke in you?
  3. How significant do you think Fionn’s 18th birthday is to this story? Will things change now that he’s officially an adult?
  4. At the end of this chapter, Anna assures Sinead that she will not move the family to Gothenburg. What do you think she will decide to do instead? Why?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • When you think of the word “hometown,” what images come to mind? What kinds of feelings do these images provoke?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write about her memories of her father and grandmother at this time? How is that important to the story as it unfolds?
  • Towards the end of the chapter, Anna remarks, “Life wasn’t about what I wanted, was it?” What do you think about this question? Is life what we make it, or do we mostly react to circumstances?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

“…we had the apartment to ourselves.” = We lived alone in the apartment. (p. 201)

“…I had stuck to non-dairy rice milk cones” = I had not tried any other type of ice cream. (p.202)

“Farmor…and I had a standing joke…” = a joke which continues over time (p. 203)

“…I had butter fingers…” = I dropped something; my fingers seemed to be slippery, as if covered with butter. (p. 203)

“A speech from me would have mortified him…” = It would have embarrassed him a lot. (p. 206)

Language Focus:

Transitional Words and Phrases

There are many ways to move from one idea to another in reading and writing. In this chapter, there are many examples. All of these appear at the start of a sentence. Most of them appear at the start of a paragraph. Paying special attention to these transitions may help you follow the story better.

After some back and forth, Mom and I decided…”

With the possible exception of nearby Norway, I was convinced…”

In Stockholm, the best ice cream…”

That’s the moment (when) it occurred to me that…”

Instead, I decided…”

But I already knew that. I knew…”

After spending two years in Sweden, I…”

Answers to Part 1

  1. She felt free. She realized she was no longer a confused, restrained child.
  2. A car (a convertible) and then an airplane.
  3. He was a father who was not particularly attached to the idea of being one.
  4. Fionn’s 18th birthday party.

Chapter 19: No Right on Red

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. Which Swedish driving rule did “everyone” mention to Anna?
  2. When it came to practice driving, which opportunity had Anna missed?
  3. What type of animal attacked Anna when she was out walking?
  4. Why did Anna’s mom stop suddenly and stand still at the subway station?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. Describe Anna’s driving lesson. What were her challenges? Based on your own driving history, do you think you would have been afraid of unmarked intersections, too?
  2. In Sweden, environmental driving is part of the requirement for getting a license. Do you think that’s a good idea, or is it unnecessary?
  3. Anna did not know her mother was afraid of escalators. What is one of your own fears that you don’t think your family (or close friends) know about?
  4. Anna and her mother had trouble using the public restroom due to technology. What are some ways that apps can help us? Have you ever been in a situation where an online system caused you problems?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • Many people say that driving becomes automatic after a while. Do you agree with that? How hard do you think it would be to learn a different way of driving?
  • Once again, Anna takes life as a challenge, saying, “I had to do this. I had to show myself.” When life presents challenges, do you tend to react the same way? Why, or why not? Do you have a story to share about that?
  • Anna’s mother does not use the modern Swedish word fika for a coffee break. She prefers the older term kaffe (which means “having coffee.”) Think about your day-to-day language choices. Do you speak like someone of your generation? What are some examples? What are some terms you don’t use because they would make you sound older or younger, or because you are just not comfortable with them?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

“…the thing they harped on…” = the thing they nagged me about (p.193)

“…an ugly old troll…” = a ugly creature in Swedish mythology (p. 194)

NOTE: This word is used differently in the online world. There, it can be a noun or a verb.

“my stick-shift practice car” = The car has a manual transmission. It is not an automatic, which is popular in the USA. (p. 194)

“…when they’re totally pissed off.” = when they are very angry (p. 195)

Grammar Focus:

Expression Location with Prepositional Phrases and Comparisons

When you read a story, it is common to read a description of a scene. Before the action begins, it is important to know where you are in the world and to form a mental picture of that place. Two ways that locations are expressed are through prepositional phrases and comparisons. Look at this example from the first page of Chapter 19.

The driving school was located in a small strip mall  in a residential neighborhood. I felt like a nervous kid as I passed the practice cars parked outside — clearly marked with big yellow signs for safety — and walked through the glass doors. The interior looked like every automotive establishment I’d ever visited, with a couple of cheap sofas, a coffee table covered in well-worn magazines, and posters of classic cars taped to the walls. I could have been at Firestone in Seattle, or the place where I bought new tires, or even my mechanic in Gwangju.

  1. Prepositional Phrases: Sometimes it’s hard to know which preposition to use for location. Students often ask, “Should I used ‘at’ or ‘in’?” The answer is not always simple, but in general, “in” means you are inside something while “at” is a more general term. For example, if I am “in my house,” I am specifically inside, but if I am “at my house” I could be inside or outside the house. The best advice is probably to follow the common expressions that people use. Here are some popular ones:

IN: in my room, in the classroom, in a residential neighborhood, in WA state

AT: at home, at my house, at North Seattle College, at school, at my place

2. Comparisons: Writers often compare a new place to another place which they think the reader could be familiar with. In the above example, the writer mentions “Firestone,” which is a popular automotive chain in the US. The writer also mentions a place to buy new tires and a mechanic. This completes the description which began in the sentence that begins, “The interior looked like…” Also, as you can see in this paragraph, it is not necessary for every comparison to start with “looked like.”

Answers to Part 1

  1. “No right on red.” In Sweden, drivers are not allowed to turn right when the light is red although this is a common practice in American driving.
  2. She could have driven alone for a year with her American driver’s license, but she didn’t.
  3. A crow.
  4. She was afraid of taking the escalator (afraid of heights.)

Chapter 18: Home and Away

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Questions for Understanding

  1. What happened to Anna five days after she returned from Israel?
  2. What did Fionn want to do in Korea?
  3. Where did Anna, Fionn, and Jillian stay when they visited Gwangju?
  4. When did Anna and her cousin Sophie first meet?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. Describe Anna’s life in Sweden before the trip to Korea in March. What role do Baha’i activities play in her life? How would you describe her Swedish life at this point?
  2. When Fionn and Anna visit Korea, she remarks, “What a change two years could make.” How is Fionn different now? How has he changed since 2015?
  3. How are Anna’s behavior and social standing in Korea different than during her life in Sweden? What can we guess Fionn thinks about this?
  4. Anna and Sophie first met as adults. How common do you think this is? Do you have any family members you first met as an adult?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • At one point, Lena consoles Anna (about Fionn) by saying, “You want him to be spiritual, but your problem is that you want it now. Maybe God has a different timetable.” Do you agree with Lena? What role do you think timing plays in how we judge the success or failure of our endeavors?
  • Anna reconnects with her cousin. Is family important to you? Do you have close relationships to your parents, siblings, children, and/or cousins? Why, or why not?
  • Anna describes the reading of her father’s will and her feelings about it. How important do you think it is to make a will? Can a clear will prevent hard feelings in a family, or is it more likely to cause them?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

P. 186

“I could feel respect start oozing out of (1) Fionn as he eased through (2) the rest of the evening: a long, hot shower, a bit of (3) relaxing on the bed in his fluffy, hotel-issue (4) robe and slippers, flipping through some channels.(5)”

  • = flowing out of
  • = calmly or easily spent his time
  • = some; a short time of
  • = officially provided by the hotel; a product of the hotel
  • = using the remote control to look at channels on the TV, checking what’s on TV.

Grammar Focus:

Complex Sentences

Complex sentences are formed by combining an independent clause and a dependent clause. If the dependent clause comes first, a comma is used.

When I got back, I once again set my mind on pulling everything in my life together into one integrated whole.” (p. 181)

  1. “When I got backis a dependent clause. It cannot be a sentence by itself. It needs to be attached to an independent clause
  • “I once again set my mind on …” is an independent clause. It can be a sentence by itself. It does not need anything else.

More examples:

“…and when I looked outside now, I saw January darkness above and uneven, icy streets below.” (p.182)

When I talked with Lena, I felt that my international background was a valid version of a Swedish life.” (p. 182)

I knew this because he still needed my credit card to finish transactions until he was 18.” (p. 183)

Review Q&A

Q: What’s a clause?

A: It’s a group of words with a subject and a verb.

EX1: When I got back

EX2: I was planning to welcome my 83-year-old mother

This is not a clause; it is a phrase: In the spring

Answers to Part 1

  1. She got very sick. She was miserable.
  2. He wanted to go shopping.
  3. They stayed in a hotel suite on the top floor of a glass high-rise.
  4. They first met when they were 19 and 20 years old.

Chapter 17: Staking My Claim

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. Was Anna happy about moving back into Kevin’s apartment?
  2. What did Anna’s contract with Fionn say she had to stop doing?
  3. Which of the other children lived with Anna, Sinead, and Fionn now?
  4. What did Anna do as her second Christmas in Sweden was approaching?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. What part of this chapter struck you the most? Why?
  2. As this chapter opens, Anna is starting her second year in Sweden. How are things different now than when she, Sinead, and Fionn first started living together?
  3. Anna describes her relationship with Fiyori as, “No planning, no formalities. Easy.” Based on this description, how do you think she feels, in contrast, about Swedish culture?
  4. Clearly, Anna has mixed feelings about Kevin and their relationship. Do you think this is typical in the case of divorce, or is something else in play here? Can you relate to her feelings?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • This chapter considers the changes which happen when someone adjusts to a new culture or new circumstances. What role do you think time plays in adjustments we make in life? How long does it usually take to adjust to something life-changing? Do we ever totally adjust?
  • When we have mixed feelings about someone who has passed away, what are some ways to deal with that?
  • At the end of the chapter, Anna hopes to come back from Israel with some inspiration and answers. Do you have special places you go to for inspiration, or which inspire you when you think about them? Why are they special?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

(from page 173)

“stood arms akimbo” = stood with fists on hips and elbows out at a sharp angle, as if facing a challenger in a fight or as if preparing for a confrontation.

“staring down” = staring at something like you are trying to conquer it. (Imagine staring at a person until your stare forces the person to look down.)

“purge the space” = remove impurities; make pure. In this case, the meaning is emotional, but it can be physical. For example, when someone vomits, their body removes impurities from the stomach.

“a light sleeper”= someone who easily awakens. A heavy sleeper will usually continue sleeping even if there are noises or other disturbances.

Grammar Focus:

More Past Perfect Tense in Storytelling

Let’s take another look at this tense since it appears so often in this book. When you read a story which is written in the past tense, it is common to see past perfect tense. This means something happened before the past tense action.

The form of the past perfect is HAD + PAST PARTICIPLE:

= had insisted

= had started

= had waited

= had used

Remember, for past participles, regular verbs have the same form in simple past and present participle (as in the above examples), while irregular verbs have unique past participles (as below).

= had driven (not ‘had drove’)

= had written (not ‘had wrote’)

= had seen (not ‘had saw’)

Here is an example from page 172, where past perfect appears naturally in the story:

“Seriously, when are you going to stop that?” he asked one morning as he wrapped a paper napkin around the open-faced sandwich I had made him for breakfast. Today was one of the good days. He was dressed and showered, and I wasn’t sighing as I threw away the sandwich in the trash. He was an hour late, but at least we hadn’t gotten into a screaming match and (hadn’t) ended up on opposite sides of a slammed door.”

Answers to Part 1

  1. No. She had “a bit of an attitude” about having to move back into her ex-husband’s house.
  2. She had to stop threatening to leave.
  3. Sean. He was the only one of the older kids to stay. Cara had moved out again.
  4. She bought white paper star lanterns for the windows, and she decorated with red placements, traditional postcards, and a Christmas tree from the downstairs storage.

Chapter 16: Canada

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. Why was Sinead excited to visit the town where Jenny lived?
  2. Which two types of soup did Anna make for Jenny after she had a baby?
  3. Which problem in Sweden did Anna not want to think about?
  4. Which Swedish sentence did Anna teach her daughters when they were teenagers?
  5. Which item of Justin Bieber’s did Sinead get to hold?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. How is this chapter different from the other chapters in the book so far? How is Anna’s behavior and mentality different?
  2. Which details in this chapter tell us that Anna is more comfortable with the Korean and American aspects of her identity than the Swedish one?
  3. Have you ever experienced this type of “mental break” while in the middle of an uncomfortable struggle or adjustment? What happened?
  4. At the end of the chapter, Anna is returning to Sweden with a new mindset. Describe the mindset and how it might influence her behavior after she returns.
  5. How important is one’s mindset to one’s identity? Is it possible to influence one’s identity through conscious decisions?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • This chapter describes a Korean approach to childbirth and recovery. What is your reaction to that? What are your experiences and/or thoughts about the childbirth process?
  • Anna finds it hard to leave her child and grandchild. How much do feelings about family influence the decisions we make, especially about where to live? Is it a luxury to have that choice?
  • At the end, Anna decides to live as herself, “with all my intercultural complexity.” Is being intercultural a modern phenomenon? How can we see this complexity in the world around us (or in ourselves)?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

“…as the airport shuttle pulled into Stratford.” = as the van from the airport arrived (p. 161)

NOTE: “to pull over” is an expression used for driving. It means to move to the side of the road. Example, “When I heard the siren and saw the fire engine, I pulled over to let it pass.”

“the occasional playground or church” = Here and there, I saw a playground or a church. (p 162)

“an unspoken feud” = a struggle or quarrel that no one talks about (page 163)

“I didn’t want to exert the brainpower” = I didn’t want to make the mental effort (p. 166)

“I felt entitled to my Swedish citizenship.” = I felt it was my right, and natural, to be Swedish (p. 167)

Grammar Focus:

The tricky word: “to”

The word “to” is used in so many expressions and in so many ways that it is no wonder that students of English get totally confused. Let’s try to review some of the usages and meanings of “to.”

  1. It’s a preposition: It tells us the place which is the destination or goal.

“When are we going to Scoops?”

  • It can mean “in order to,” which gives the reason for an action.

“Jenny waddled out (in order) to meet us…”

This gives the reason why Jenny waddled out. What was her reason for coming out?

  • It can mean “in that direction.”

“That evening, Sinead turned to me as we sat…”

  • It can be part of expressions that express location.

“… the residential street adjacent to Jenny’s apartment”

  • It starts an infinitive verb.

“My job during the labor and recovery was to manage the kitchen.”

“I knew how comforting it was to know that two bowls…”

  • It can be part of other expressions.

“My food had to be hot and warming…”

“She kindly urged me to lie down…”

“I listened to her.”

“…she was content to use English with everyone else.”

Analyzing all the usages of “to” can be overwhelming! It is truly a confusing word if we look at it in isolation.

TIP: Rather than try to figure out the meaning of “to” in isolation (which is probably impossible and won’t help), it is best to learn the usages of “to” in phrases. For example, one should remember that “listen to” is a set of words that usually belong together.


“I listen to music.” (Not, “I listen music.”)

And remember, if “to” makes you uncomfortable while learning English, you’re not alone!

Answers to Part 1

  1. Because it was Justin Bieber’s hometown. (He’s a famous pop star.)
  2. Seaweed with beef and jujube dates with dried squid
  3. The housing problem. She, Sinead and Fionn had to move in August.
  4. “Borsta tänderna,” which means, “Brush your teeth.”
  5. His guitar.

Chapter 15: Moving

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. What time of year was it during the move, and how did that impact the story?
  2. What did Anna do in response to the stress at her work?
  3. When had Fionn calmed down?
  4. Who lived in the apartment, and what did they do together?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. How would you describe the move from the temporary apartment to the new one? Have you ever experienced a difficult move?
  2. In this chapter, Anna quits her job. Do you think it was a reasonable thing to do? Why, or why not?
  3. This chapter covers a period of six months, from January to June 2016. What is happening with each of the kids, and how do you think this will play out in future chapters?
  4. When the family finds marijuana under Fionn’s bed during the move, the author says, “I was from Seattle, where a little marijuana was no big deal.” Do you think this influenced how she responded? How would you have responded?

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • In the paragraphs which follow, “When I thought about the kids who did consider me their mother,” why do you think the author lists the children one by one and discusses how each one is doing? Do you think it’s important to the story?
  • The Swedish foster care system “surprised and delighted” Anna because it lets foster children to travel internationally. This allows Anna to serve as foster parent while still maintaining her international life. Discuss how government policies, such as this one, can help or hinder someone who tries to help others.
  • What are your thoughts on drug treatment for teens? Which of the systems described in this chapter do you think is more effective?  

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

“threw a monkey wrench into the whole day.” = ruined the plan and made things not work anymore (p. 150)

“until he knocked it off” = until he stopped behaving in this way (p. 151)

“just stupid kid stuff” = something not very serious; something that children do (p. 151)

“What was I doing here?” = why was I here; “Why am I here?” (p. 151)

“Those hopes were fading.” = It was becoming clear that those hopes would not become reality. (p. 152)

Grammar Focus:

Using Would in Storytelling

When you read a story which is written in the past tense, sometimes you see “would” when it doesn’t appear to mean past tense “will.” This is a special usage of “would,” which means that something was happening again and again, as a habit. Using “would” in this way can be confusing, which is why it is very important to introduce the situation first, to firmly establish the scene in past tense.

On page 155, the situation is introduced in the paragraph before this usage of “would”:

I took the opportunity to revisit Sinead’s daily ritual with her ADHD pill… I decided to use the parenting technique of being an annoying little pest about it.

The next paragraph tells the repetitive actions which followed this:

Every few days, I’d make a casual comment about how easy it might be just to swallow the pill whole. One day I’d comment with sympathy about how bitter it must taste, another day I’d tell her a long and elaborate story about how I learned to take pills myself.

NOTE: It can be very hard to know if the contraction “d” means “had” or “would.” The way to know is through your knowledge of grammar.

I’d rather have some coffee. = I would rather have some coffee. (If you know the expression, “would rather,” this is easy to figure out.)

I wasn’t hungry because I’d had lunch already. = I wasn’t hungry because I had had lunch already. (If you know how to use past perfect tense to express actions in a past tense story, then you will know that the contraction here means “had.” Also, modal verbs, such as “would,” must be followed by a plain verb. Here the next word is in past tense, so it is not possible for the contraction to mean “would.”

Answers to Part 1

  1. It was New Year’s weekend, so the social worker didn’t call back.
  2. She quit her job.
  3. In the spring, when Anna returned from a visit to Seattle.
  4. Cara, Fionn, Sinead, and Anna lived in the apartment, and they all ate dinner together “like a happy little family of four.”

Chapter 14: Darker Days

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Swedish Again: Chapter-By-Chapter Guide

Questions for Understanding

  1. At the start of this chapter, what helped relieve Anna’s stress? Why?
  2. How could Anna use her professional English teaching degree in Sweden?
  3. Which of “the older children” came for a visit in December?
  4. Which Swedish Christmas tradition had Anna never heard of?

Questions for Group Reflection and Discussion

  1. What part of this chapter struck you the most? Why?
  2. When Anna’s friend suggests that she teach English to Swedish kids, she flatly refuses. She calls Swedish students “a nightmare.” In which ways might you agree with that, and in which ways could this be seen as a product of Anna’s prejudice?
  3. In this chapter, Anna remembers a story about her mother’s childhood, which makes her uncomfortable. Which feelings do you think she would “stir up” if she visited her hometown right now?
  4. Sometimes, people speak in absolutes due to emotion. In this chapter, Fionn says, “Never happened. I never had that” when asked about being taught the habit of brushing his teeth. Assuming that his father did, in fact, teach him to brush his teeth, what do you think Fionn is really expressing here?
  5. In this chapter, Anna finally gets an apartment! Describe the apartment and why it’s so desirable.

Ideas for Further Consideration

  • Clearly, Anna seeks acceptance in face of her multicultural identity and international family. She says, “the Baha’is let me off the cultural hook.” What does it look like to let someone “off the hook” in terms of their cultural or racial identity, or other forms of their identity? What are some concrete ways people express acceptance of others?
  • At Christmas, Jillian “hung lovingly on her big brother.” It says, “Of all my kids, Jillian had been hit the hardest when something went wrong in the family.” This can be discussed in many ways, such as differences in birth order or levels of sensitivity, but in this context, what are some negative (or positive) consequences a biological child might experience when their parent expands the family through adoption?

Especially for English Language Learners

Key Words and Expressions:

(from page 140)

“My job, while amusing, was a dead end.” = My job was fun, but it wouldn’t develop into anything greater. A “dead end” road is a road which ends.

“My efforts… were touch and go.” = My efforts produced uneven results, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

“…that’s where I drew the line.” = That’s where I said “no.” It was my limit.

“…that it was too big a stretch for me?” = that it required more adjustment than I could make, that it required too much flexibility.

Grammar Focus:

Past Progressive Tense in Storytelling

When you read a story which is written in the past tense, it is common for the writer to “set the scene,” which means to introduce the situation, by using past progressive tense. This means something is happening as you enter the scene.

The form of the past progressive is PAST BE verb + MAIN VERB with -ing

= was carrying

= were sitting

= was happening

Here are examples from the first page of this chapter:

“The days in Stockholm were getting shorter, and people were hanging white stars in their windows, which reminded me of my mother. She never wanted colored lights or tinsel on the Christmas tree — just white lights… My day-to-day routine with Fionn and Sinead was starting to resemble a normal life…”

Answers to Part 1

  1. It was her connection to the Swedish Baha’i community because she felt accepted there.
  2. She could teach English to Swedish kids.
  3. Jillian, the youngest of that group, who was then 20.
  4. She had never heard of or experienced watching a certain Donald Duck cartoon episode on Christmas Eve.