Families and others
Irina Bazili (Elisabeta) - aide
Hans Voigt – director
Lupita Farias - head of cleaning staff
Dr. Catherine Hope – 2nd level resident
Alma Mendel Belasco – 1st level resident, silk screen artist, Belasco Foundation, parents killed in WWII
Jacques Devine “Frenchie” - died and left estate to Irina
Lenny Beal – 1st level new resident
Larry (Alma’s son) and Doris
Seth – lawyer, author, Alma’s grandson
Pauline – lawyer, granddaughter
Lillian and Isaac Belasco – took in Alma during WWII
Daughters – Martha, Sarah
Son - Nathanial - married Alma
Samuel Mendel – Alma’s brother
Takao – gardener for Isaac Belasco, family interned during WWII
Heideko – wife, blossomed in internment camp
Charles – killed in war
James – arrested in camp
Ichimei – Alma’s life-long love
Delphine – Ichimei’s wife
Boyd Anderson – guard in internment camp, married Megumi
Ron Wilkin – FBI Agent, rescued Irina
Radmila and Jim Robyns – Irina’s mother and step-father
For discussion:NOTE: Page numbers are from the paperback edition of the book.
- The author made many observations about the elderly. Do you think she was correct? For example:
- On page 31 she wrote “We want our loved ones to be safe, Seth. But what they want for themselves is autonomy.”
- On page 7 and 8, Dr. Hope observed that, “The elderly are the most entertaining people in the world…They have lived a lot, say whatever they like, and couldn’t care less about other people’s opinion.”
- Page 13: “ …in itself age doesn’t make anyone better or wiser, but only accentuates what they have always been.”
- Page 60: Dr. Hope said she was content, “Because I have time to spare, and for the first time in my life nobody expects anything of me. I don’t have to prove anything, I’m not rushing everywhere; each day is a gift I enjoy to the fullest.”
- Page 65: “However old one is, we need a goal in our lives. It’s the best cure for many ills.”
- Do you think a place like Lark House exists? Would you be willing to move there?
- One of the projects of the Belasco Foundation was to create green spaces in at-risk neighborhoods. The Foundation felt that the green spaces transformed the neighborhood (page 23). Is this realistic?
- Isaac Belasco felt that doing good deeds was important and said that, “there is only one aristocracy, that of decency, and that this was not inherited or bought with money or titles, but was only gained through good deeds” (page 71).
- When Alma first moved in with the Belasco’s she was very unhappy and cried every night. Isaac stated that, “Childhood is a naturally unhappy period of our existence, Lillian. It was Walt Disney who invented the notion that it has to be happy, simply to make money” (page 44). Do you agree?
- On page 31, the story said that Alma’s personality changed in a matter of two hours after a nap. What do you think happened to change Alma?
- Did you learn any facts or new insights about the Japanese internment during WWII?
- Discuss Irina. Did you pick up any hints early in the novel that all was not as it seemed with her? How did you think she should respond to Seth’s offers of marriage?
- On page 199, Irina starts a “Letting Go Group” because she saw that those with lots of possessions were more anxious than those with few possessions. What did you think about this?
- Discuss Alma regarding the following descriptions and information. Did any of them change your thinking about Alma?
- Were you surprised when she did not want to marry Ichimei when she became pregnant?
- In self-reflection on page 232, Alma realized that, “her greatest prejudice was that of social class.”
- On page 252 she reflected that, “She never sacrificed herself for another person or an ideal: self-denial was not one of her virtues.” How would Isaac react to this? (See #4)
- Was it realistic that both Nathaniel and Delphine both ignored or supported the love affair between their spouses?
- Were you surprised by the revelation of Nathaniel’s affair with Lenny? Were you suspicious that there was more to Nathaniel’s story from the beginning?
- When Seth told Alma about his father’s observations of Ichimei, he said that he had a kind of an aura (202) and that he could control his pulse and temperature (202). What did you make of these observations?
- What did Samuel’s story add to the novel?
- Discuss your reading experience. What were you thinking and anticipating as you were reading?
First Semester Success: Learning Strategies and Motivation for Your First Semester (or Any Semester) of College, by Dr. Arden B. Hamer, is available at amazon.com, wordassociation.com and barnesandnoble.com. Click on the upper right link.