Excerpted from Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrom. Copyright © 2013 by Merethe Lindstrom. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. The “intruder” who enters Eva and Simon’s house in the beginning of the novel is at first an unsettling presence, but later in the book he comes to represent something else to Eva. Why does Lindstrøm open with this scene, and how does it relate to the rest of the book?
2. Despite Marija’s hateful anti-Semitic remarks, Eva finds herself extremely affected by her absence after she and Simon dismiss her. What role does Marija play in Simon and Eva’s relationship that becomes such a profound loss after she is gone?
3. Simon and Eva both decide at different times that it’s best not to tell their daughters about their respective pasts. To what extent can hiding the past from the next generation be a selfish act or a benevolent one? Is keeping painful secrets from loved ones, as Simon and Eva do throughout this novel, ever justified?
4. How do you interpret Simon’s descent into silence? Is it a kind of protest, a result of dementia, or perhaps something else? Do you think Simon is making a choice to be silent? If so, why do you think he chooses silence over telling?
5. What role does guilt play in Simon and Eva’s relationship with each other and with their family?
6. Simon searches for his missing relatives and Eva begins to imagine her son’s fate more and more as the book progresses. How are Simon’s and Eva’s “searches” for missing relatives different, and how might this account for their growing distance from each other?
7. At the end of the novel, it is implied that Eva has finally decided to share the truth with her daughters. What ultimately prompts this decision? Do you feel that it is for the best?