Suggested menu for your North of Hope book club gathering:
Want to arrange your book club gathering around an Alaskan-themed menu? Try this:
Sourdough rolls, creme fraise, capers, smoked salmon or salmon jerky (Whole Foods carries this), Alaskan Amber beer if you care to imbibe, lingonberry spread (you can find this at IKEA!), and, for the ambitious, lingonberry orange nut bread (mentioned in the book). The recipe is here (I double the lingonberries) and if you aren't an Alaskan with a freezer stock from last year's harvest, you can order frozen lingonberries at http://www.nwwildfoods.com. And even if it isn't real Alaskan, closing with Klondike Bars is never a bad thing. Or for the truly ambitious, Baked Alaska!
A dedicated group of students at John Brown University studied North of Hope over a semester and put together a thoughtful reading guide here.
Questions for discussion of North of Hope:
1. How does the narrative of North of Hope parallel wilderness and music?
2. What realization does the writer make on recollecting her father and step-mother's funeral that the narrator appreciates on reaching the beach?
3. How does wilderness act in the narrator's story?
4. How did the inclusion of short musical interludes work to draw the concept of Requiem through the narrative?
5. How does the narrative itself fit the idea of Requiem?
6. Why does the narrator explore other faith tradition's ideas and rituals around death, and how does it inform her journey or a more general concept of mourning?
7. How does the narrator's exploration of the history of the bear mythology inform her journey?
8. How does the author incorporate "found objects," journal entries and letters, in the narrative and how do they add to the story?
9. How did the chapter recalling Polson's grandmother's death work in the narrator's journey through grief?
10. As the narrative concludes, has the narrator conquered her grief? What is your understanding of her journey when the story draws to a close?
11. What does the narrator learn that informs a more general discussion of grief?
12. What does the narrator experience or learn that informs a broader discussion of wilderness?
13. In the Afterward, the author suggests the importance of honoring an approach of conservation toward wild places. How has the narrative supported this idea?