Who should read this: fans of Choose Your Own Adventure, poets, nihilists, optimists, history nerds, musicians, and those searching for meaning in life
The story: A child dies shortly after birth, the same child lives to die in adulthood in a mass grave, the same woman, older, has to explain her life to survive, and so it goes on. Will she ever rest in peace? In a series of five books, the same character will die. Between each book is an intermezzo, a what-if, a turning of the die, chance intervenes, and the character lives on through European history spanning three wars, only one cold. With eloquence, the author creates five different lives, all lived by the same woman. Each voice is distinct, each life a new iteration of what was and what could be. The ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure for adults.
When discussing this book:
- Which life did you identify with the most?
- What times in your life do you feel you have been at a crossroads? What might have you chosen differently? Where do you think you might be?
- This book was translated from German, did you notice any phrases or wording that felt different from English?
- Which life was the hardest for you to bear? Why?
- If you are a group that writes, write an intermezzo for a point in your life in which you think things could have gone differently.
- Look up the longitude and latitude on a map app, how far did this character travel in life?
- If you are a quiet group, pass around a gold button. Whoever has the button answers the next question.
- What was the significance of the button?
- Do you think having this story told from the perspective of a German author impacted the descriptions of history? If you are not from Germany, was there anything that surprised you?
- Why do you think the author used longitude and latitude?
- When did you laugh in the book?
- When did you cry?
- What objects kept reappearing in the book? Why do you think that was?
- To which character did you most connect
If you loved this book, try: (click book cover to buy indie)
Review by Frank Richardson of End of Days
Review by the Guardian of End of Days
NPR interviews Jenny Erpenbeck
The Guardian interviews Jenny Erpenbeck with literary analysis of the work of former GDR writers