BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDE
Summary: In this National Book Award winner, Paul
McLeod, a Scottish newspaper owner, longs for the Greek isles to escape
his loneliness since the death of his wife. Of his three sons, Fenno
is the most reticent, having left Scotland to pursue a life in New York,
where his homosexuality would blend into the backdrop of the diversified
city. The second part of the story brings Fenno and his twin brothers
and their wives together for the funeral of their father, who has died
in Greece. Many undercurrents and emotions run through this mesmerizing
novel, which essentially deals with human complexity and how people
shape one another, deliberately and sometimes by chance. Brimming with
a marvelous cast of intricate characters set in an assortment of scintillating
backdrops, Glass's philosophically introspective novel is highly intelligent
and well written.
1. This novel speaks of death in the second paragraph. Death and suicide
are major themes. Who dies and how do they die? How does death affect
the living? Why did Mal ask Fenno to aid him in his suicide? Why did
Fenno go along with the plan? It is implied in the end that Lucinda
eventually forgave Fen? Why would she?
2. Love and couples are prominent in this novel. Who is tied to whom
and how do the unions work? What did David see from his foxhole room?
What might have been in the letters on Paul's desk when Fenno seems
to be defending Maureen as a wife and mother? What difference did the
children make in characters' lives? How might David and Lil's life be
changed by Fenno's "gift?" How was Fenno's life changed by
his fathering twins?
3. Animals are often mentioned. Who is close to animals and who is not?
What do the animals tell us about the human characters? Why is the first
section called "'Collies?" What was Maureen's relationship
to her dogs, and was this reflected in her roles as wife and mother?
Who was Colin Swift? Who were Rodgie and Felicity?
4. Inability to communicate is a major theme of this novel. Which characters
lose because they cannot share themselves with others? Why didn't Fenno
ever visit Paul in Greece? Why did little Laurie hide Paul's ashes?
5. Why is the second section called Upright? What did you think of Fenno
through the three sections? Were you surprised that he became the main
character? What was Malachy Burns' relationship to Fenno? What did it
take for Fenno to realize he cared deeply about Mal? As Fenno took care
of Mal did your view of the two men change?
6. How does the author imply mothers are responsible for their son's
ability to communicate? What was Maureen's relationship with her sons?
What happened to Mal with the cello player? How was Lucinda involved?
Do you think this was why she was so interested in unwed mothers?
7. Was Lucinda more interested in her own causes than her son's needs?
Why did Mal break her dishes? Why did Maureen and Lucinda (and later
Veronique) have the same dinner service? What kind of mother is Veronique?
What kind of mother do you think Fern will become?
8 . How does Tony link Fern and Fenno? Was the tie believable to you?
Was his relationship with either satisfying to anyone except himself?
How did he betray Fenno? What happened while Fenno was in Paris with
9. What does the last sentence imply: "Here we are--despite the
delays, the confusion, and the shadows en route--at last, or for the
moment, where we always intended to be." Do you think this is true
in life, or only in novels?
Paul McLeod - ex-army Scotsman, newspaper publisher,
father and husband
Maureen - mother, collie breeder, wife of Paul
Fern - artist, pregnant in last section
Fenno McLeod - lead character of , 'Upright," son of Paul
Dennis McLeod - son of Paul and Maureen, chef, husband of Veronique
David McLeod - son of Paul and Maureen, veterinarian, husband
Mal Burns - friend of Fenno
Lillian (Lil) - wife of David, wants child
Veronique - wife of Dennis, French, florist
Lucinda - Mal's mother
Tony - Fenno's lover & Fern's lover, photographer
with Julia Glass
Questions and related information provided by Ali MacDonald.
This discussion guide made possible with public
funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency. Sponsored
by the Mohawk Valley Library System and participating member libraries.