DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET
- Wallis Ann is pragmatic and determined, and she handles even the most difficult of challenges as if she’s much older than her fourteen years. Do you think this came naturally to her, or do you believe she conformed given what was required and expected of her?
- Laci, Wallis Ann’s older sister, is a mute but very gifted girl. Wallis Ann observes random moments when Laci seems to be undergoing possible developmental changes, like when she notices a change in her expression, as well as the odd midnight wanderings. What do you think was happening to Laci?
- Do you think it was fair for Momma to depend on Wallis Ann so much for Laci’s care, considering Wallis Ann always put Laci first, even before her own needs?
- When do you believe the relationship with Wallis Ann and Laci started to change? What did you notice?
- With regard to Momma, do you find Wallis Ann the stronger of the two? What was your impression of Momma?
- Wallis Ann bears tremendous guilt for some of the events in the story, from her little brother, Seph, drinking “tainted” water, to Laci’s disappearance. Is there anything you think she could have done differently to avoid these tragedies?
- What is your opinion of Clayton? Do you think he was wrong to befriend Wallis Ann, only to turn and focus on Laci, given her challenges?
- Do you think he exploited Laci’s disabilities, or do you believe it was young love?
- Papa’s desire to provide for his family was evident in all he tried to do. From leaving Stampers Creek and taking them to his brother, Hardy, in South Carolina, to declaring they perform for money. His efforts, while commendable, weren’t successful for the most part. How do you think this made him feel, as the head (and provider) of the family? Do you think he made bad decisions, or do you think he did what he could, given the circumstances?
- Wallis Ann feels invisible at times, as if she’s being “passed over” in favor of her sister. She feels she can’t speak her mind because of Laci’s disability, and thinks she might as well be as mute as her sister. She assumes what people will say or think if she were to do so, perhaps viewing her as ungrateful. Do you think if she’d spoken up about her feelings early on, Laci’s disappearance might have been avoided?
- From their initial meeting, it’s apparent there was some sort of connection between Wallis Ann and Joe Calhoun. In the end, Joe tells her she has to think about herself, see the world around her. He recognizes her sole focus has always been Laci, yet Wallis Ann still can’t let herself do this. If Laci had not returned, do you think she and Joe would have had a chance for the future? Do you believe she would have given up on having something for herself out of this guilt?
- Laci speaks her sister’s name for the first time after she’s reunited with her. Do you believe this occurred because Laci’s desire to be back with her sister was so strong her mind overcame this particular obstacle because of their extended separation?
- Little Josie, Joe Calhoun’s daughter, likes to tuck her hand into Wallis Ann’s, much like Laci has always done. What does this signify to you?
- Water is a major theme running throughout the book. From the Tuckasegee River, which took and gave life, to the waterfalls, a natural part of Wallis Ann’s environment, yet symbolic in the way she meets Clayton, a risky free fall in of itself. What was the significance of the water to you?
Book Title: The Road to Bittersweet
Author: Donna Everhart
Recipe: Old-Fashioned Corn Pone