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Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik

January 27th, 2010

Oh My Stars is Lorna Landvik’s most ambitious novel yet, with a cast of characters whose travails and triumphs you’ll long remember. It is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery–as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way.

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Reader’s Guide

1. Oh My Stars begins in highly unusual fashion, describing Violet’s horrible accident in the opening passages. Why might an author introduce a character this way? What sort of tone does it establish for the novel?

2. Consider the book’s portrayal of Depression-era America. Why has the author selected this particular time and place for her story? How does the setting complement the action?

3. Music-making is one of the central dramatic tropes in Oh My Stars. What is the thematic significance of music for these characters? How, if at all, is musical expression preferable to the spoken or written word?

4. Violet longs for recognition: Even when jerking her arm from industrial equipment, she thinks of the birthday party she ought to be enjoying instead. What different kinds of attention does she seek from others? How are her expectations fulfilled or disappointed? Ultimately, does anyone “see the whole Violet”?

5. Violet explicitly weighs in on the nature-vs.-nurture debate in chapter 5. What are your views on this issue? Is the cake in fact already baked at birth?

6. Various sorts of families appear throughout the story: the Hedstrom clan, Violet and her father, the band. What defines a family? What are its obligations, and what determines its success?

7. Despite its subject matter and the bleak circumstances of its setting, Oh My Stars maintains a relatively upbeat tone. Would you describe the book as funny? How does the author use humor? How do the characters use it? Does humor represent a solution to problems, or merely a diversion from them?

8. The narrative employs a flashback structure, braiding the events of the Depression with more recent commentary. Why did the author choose this technique? How do you think it contributes to the story? Do you feel Violet’s perspective (as pre­sented in the italicized paragraphs that introduce each chapter) enhances your own understanding of the events she describes?

9. Throughout the book, certain events and adversities change the course of Violet’s life. Do these events shape her personality, or does her personality influence how she reacts to them? What about Kjel? Austin? Which characters are the most impressionable? Which are the most indomitable?

10. The characters in Oh My Stars are, by and large, a celebratory group. What does the book celebrate? Does the author, in her narrative, impart any lessons distinct from the messages Violet shares?

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