Hannibal Free Public Library


Amy Greene

June 24, 2013

1. Rather than relying on a single narrator to tell this moving, complex story that takes us from the Great Depression to today, Amy Greene uses the voices of six characters in different time periods to share their memories, their family histories, their connections to one another, and the circumstances that have enriched their lives or led to unintended sorrow. Why do you think she chose to tell the story this way? How do the characters’ voices differ from one another—their language, dialect, and colloquialisms—both between and within the generations?

2. Byrdie, for all the losses and heartbreak she’s experienced, remains resilient, selfless, and loving. Why do you think Greene chose to begin Myra ’s story by going back into Byrdie’s sometimes painful history? How does Byrdie foreshadow what’s to come for Myra, both in her dreams and premonitions about John Odom, and also through her own experiences—namely her romance with Macon and the loss of her own children? What does Myra learn from Byrdie, and what lessons does she forget too easily?

3. Magic plays an important role in this story, just as it has in the real lives of generations of Appalachian families. Byrdie is the niece of “granny women” who believe that a curse on her family will be lifted when a baby with “haint blue” eyes is born, yet Myra ’s birth seems to lead to even more trouble for the Lambs. Why doesn’t Myra ’s birth break the curse? Do you think the curse even existed in the first place? Why do tradition and superstition exert such a strong hold on the family, even on an educated character like Ford Hendrix?

4. Appalachia is depicted as an often bleak place in this novel, where poverty, abuse, and violence are endemic. Yet it is also described as a place of great beauty. All of the female characters marry and have babies at a young age, which at times makes their lives more difficult—their husbands can be unreliable, even cruel—but some of their relationships are shown to be warm and loving. How do these contrasts create tension in the story? What social, political, and economic questions do you think the novel raises?

5. In Doug’s narrative, he speaks of the allure of Bloodroot Mountain and the important role the natural world plays in his boyhood relationship with Myra . What does the mountain represent to Doug and Myra , and to the other families who live there? How does their isolation from the rest of the world cause problems, and how does it occasionally benefit them? Why do you think Myra has “itchy feet,” and how does she pass that restlessness on to her children?

6. Wild Rose is an untamable horse with whom Myra seems to have a special, even primal, connection. What does Wild Rose represent for Myra ? For Doug?

7. Byrdie passes the blood red ring she stole on to Myra , who in turn gives it to Johnny and Laura. Beyond its material value, why is the ring so important to each of them? What else does Myra pass on to her children—what less tangible legacies does she leave with each of them?

8. Why do you think Myra loves Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”? How does poetry provide both her and Johnny with a means of escaping reality in some of their worst moments? How does Johnny’s own writing help him get past all the hardship he’s experienced?

9. What life-changing insights does Johnny gain while serving time in jail? What does he mean about becoming empowered and learning to use his anger in more productive ways?

10. How do you view Johnny’s chance meeting with Ford Hendrix? Is it coincidence, or is something more powerful at work? What do Johnny and Myra find appealing in Ford? Do you think Ford’s visions are real, or are they, along with his tales of how he lost his finger, part of his storytelling gifts?      


 Adapted from:   http:// http://www.benton.lib.il.us/book-club/bloodroot-discussion-questions