a reader's guide to Goner

The Sobral’s family drama begins in the Deep South during the days of Jim Crow and takes the reader forward in time into the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  What are some key moments that point out the differences between the Southern mores of those times and the progressive views of the Sobral family?

How does the trajectory of Margaret’s relationship with Bruce set up the story of her relationship with Matthew?

What role does the Deep South landscape play in Goner?

How does the author, Ann Goethe, lead the reader to differentiate amongst the four sisters?

What part does humor play in the relationship of the sisters?

What effect does making Emily the narrator have on your perception of the story?

The name of the novel, Goner, refers to a specific incident in the lives of Margaret and Matthew.  Are there other ways in which the word, goner, could be related to this story?

When Rebecca asks about the secret to their parents’ long marriage, Emily replies, “The times…It was the curse of their own decades that kept them mismatched and together.” Find some incidents that reflect the meaning of those lines.

How do each of the sisters respond to the differences in familial warmth their parents evidence toward their children?

In what ways do Babette’s relationship with the Sobral family point to the changes that were working in the South at that time in history?  

In what ways do the literary and poetic quotes that are woven into the story affect and reflect the lives of the Sobral family?

What does the fact that the secret revealed at the end of the story is also couched in a literary reference mean to the story and the reader?