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On Sale: March 25, 2014
Pages: 208 | ISBN: 978-0-385-35014-3
Published by : Knopf Knopf
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis

Synopsis

Following his magisterial To the End of the Land, the universally acclaimed Israeli author brings us an incandescent fable of parental grief––concise, elemental, a powerfully distilled experience of understanding and acceptance, and of art’s triumph over death.
 
In Falling Out of Time, David Grossman has created a genre-defying drama––part play, part prose, pure poetry––to tell the story of bereaved parents setting out to reach their lost children. It begins in a small village, in a kitchen, where a man announces to his wife that he is leaving, embarking on a journey in search of their dead son. The man––called simply Walking Man––paces in ever-widening circles around the town. One after another, all manner of townsfolk fall into step with him (the Net-Mender, the Midwife, the Elderly Math Teacher, even the Duke), each enduring his or her own loss. The walkers raise questions of grief and bereavement: Can death be overcome by an intensity of speech or memory? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to call to the dead and free them from their death? Grossman’s answer to such questions is a hymn to these characters, who ultimately find solace and hope in their communal act of breaching death’s hermetic separateness. For the reader, the solace is in their clamorous vitality, and in the gift of Grossman’s storytelling––a realm where loss is not merely an absence but a life force of its own.
David Grossman

About David Grossman

David Grossman - Falling Out of Time

Photo © Peter-Andreas Hassiepen

David Grossman was born in Jerusalem. He is the author of numerous works of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and has been translated into thirty-six languages around the world. He is the recipient of many prizes, including the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Buxtehuder Bulle in Germany, Rome’s Premio per la Pace e l’Azione Umitaria, the Premio Ischia—International Award for Journalism, Israel’s Emet Prize, and the Albatross Prize given by the Günter Grass Foundation.

Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Falling Out of Time, internationally acclaimed author David Grossman’s powerful, genre-defying exploration of grief and bereavement as experienced by residents of a small village.

About the Guide

Part prose, part play, and pure poetry, David Grossman’s Falling Out of Time is a powerful exploration of mortality, mourning, and the long good-bye that follows the death of a loved one. As linguistically impressive as it is emotionally wrought, Grossman’s trim fable unpacks the complexities of grief as they are experienced on a personal and collective level, leading readers on a journey to define the universal, yet often indescribable, feeling of loss.

Set in a small seaside village, the characters of Falling Out of Time are bound by grief: all are parents who have experienced the death of a child, and all struggle with pain they are unable to articulate. The book opens in the home of two such characters, a man—simply described as Walking Man—and his wife, who are mourning the death of their son. Unable to bear the burden of his grief in the confines of his home, the man sets out on a journey to reach his dead son. He begins to walk around the village in ever-widening circles, reflecting on his sorrow as he paces. One by one, he is joined by a lively cross section of townspeople—from the Midwife to the Net-Mender to the Duke—each with his or her own story of loss to reflect upon. As they walk, questions about death and mortality are raised: Is there an afterlife? Is peace of mind attainable after such a loss? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to trade places with the dead, to free them of their fate? The collectivity of the group serves as catharsis, ultimately turning these individuals’ private experiences of pain into a comforting hymn of hope. Elegantly economical and intensely moving, Grossman’s book is a singular exploration of how to live life in the face of tremendous loss.

About the Author

David Grossman was born in Jerusalem, where he still lives. He is the best-selling author of many works of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature, which have been translated into thirty-six languages. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Buxtehuder Bulle in Germany, Rome’s Premio per la Pace e l’Azione Umanitaria, the Premio Ischia International Award for Journalism, Israel’s Emet Prize, and the 2010 Frankfurt Peace Prize.

Discussion Guides

1. As Falling Out of Time opens, Walking Man and his wife are embroiled in a tense discussion about whether or not he should embark on his journey. Why does his wife protest the decision? How does her perspective on her husband’s journey change in the course of the book?

2. On page 20, Walking Man’s wife asks him: “Will I ever again / see you / as you are, / rather than as / he is not?” How is the relationship between husband and wife changed by the loss of a child? How does it affect specific couples in the novel—the Town Chronicler and his wife, the Midwife and the Cobbler?

3. The Town Chronicler is initially introduced as a sort of omnipresent force who objectively catalogs the events of the town from a distance. Yet as the book progresses, his own melancholia is revealed. What initiates this change? What does this 

4. Walking Man begins his journey by circling his own home—in hopes of getting his wife to join him—and gradually widens his path to cover greater swaths of the town. Why do you think the author chose to make his path circular rather than linear?

5. On page 50, the Duke calls himself “an impostor of sorts, a sham / pretending to be an everyman.” Over the course of the narrative, how does the Duke’s admission of loss bring him closer to the townspeople? Does the shared experience of loss make him an “everyman”?

6. Explore the relationship between the Duke and the Town Chronicler. What did you make of the edict from the Duke? Did you believe that the Duke ordered the Town Chronicler not to mention his loss, or do you think that the Town Chronicler’s reticence developed as a coping mechanism?

7. The Centaur initially challenges the authority of the Town Chronicler, taunting him for his government role, but on page 174, he describes him as a “friend.” How does this tension eventually lead to mutual respect? How does it help to unite the townspeople?

8. At the beginning of the narrative, the Town Chronicler observes that the mute net-mender has broken her nine-year silence and that her voice is “heavenly.” How does this description contrast with her physical description? When the Duke refers to her as “Lady of the Nets” on page 160, is it done ironically or as a sign of respect?

9. Why do you think the Midwife stutters throughout? What leads her husband to think that “her words are / hardly broken / anymore!” on page 131?

10. Falling Out of Time is a unique blend of prose, poetry, and drama. Why do you think the author chose to structure the narrative in such a way?

11. In the first section of the book, the dialogue moves from character to character, but in Part II, the townspeople’s voices are often considered collectively as “Walkers.” What does this say about the shared experience of grief? How does the similarity of their experiences bring a leveling effect to their society?

12. On pages 147–48, several characters struggle to remember who they are. What does this say about the shift in identity after the death of a child? How does memory interfere with their ability to redefine themselves?

13. Several characters express regrets about how they interacted with their children, or about how time was spent with a child. Whose admissions had the greatest impact on you?

14. Why do you think the author chose to represent the writer character as a Centaur? How does the Centaur’s struggle to write reflect the mourner’s communal struggle to communicate?

15. On page 160, the Walkers state that “poetry / is the language / of my grief.” Do you agree? How is this reflected in the text?

16. On page 94, the Centaur expresses his struggle to articulate death: “Death will deathify, / or is it deathened? Deatherized? / Deathered?” What does the Centaur’s “little game” say about the limitations—or flexibility—of language? How does the playful transformation of the word “death” limit or enhance its power for the speaker?

17. What does the appearance of the boy on page 189 signify? How do the townspeople react to hearing his voice? Explore the notion that “there / is breath / inside the pain.”

Suggested Readings

A Grief Observed by C. S.Lewis
The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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