The End We Start With
    Home    Print This Page  

1. No one has a name in Megan Hunter's novel: neither the narrator/mother, her partner R and their child Z. R's parents are referred to as N and G. Why the initials and no names?

2. In what way is having a child, or motherhood, the central metaphor for the novel? How does Z's coming birth and infancy parallel the course of the flood? Is the point, perhaps, that becoming a parent feels like the end of the world? How could that be?

3. The narrator observes: "How easily we have got used to it all, as though we knew what was coming all along." What is she referring to — got used to what?

4. What do we know about the causes of the cataclysm? Or what do you surmise is the cause? Talk about the resulting devastation and collapse of British society — the traveling crowds on the road, food shortages, and refugee camps — the peril around every corner.

5. What prompts R to take off from the refugee camp, leaving the narrator on her own with the baby?

6. How would it be for you to raise a child in this less-than-Brave (i.e., "admirable") New World? Reading about Z's growth, we can contrast his normal development with the abnormal state of the world. Aside from protecting Z, what does the narrator hope to accomplish for her child? What skills will she pass on to him, or how will she enable him to live in this new world?

7. Some of the narrator's observations about motherhood and babies are very funny. Find some passages you find particularly humorous.

8. How do you react to Hunter's use of the italicized interludes, which seem to be based on various creation myths. Do they enrich the storyline? Do you find them lyrical and imaginatiive, or hollow and undeveloped, or perhaps just confusing? What is their purpose?

9. What was your experience reading The End We Start From? Reviewers have commented on the sparseness of Hunter's writing. Do you find it too sparse, wishing the prose had been more expansive? Or is the writing just brief enough to allow the story to come through? Why might the author have chosen to write in such an abbreviated style? Might she be alluding to the inadequacy of language to convey all that is happening in the world?

10. As a follow-up to Questions 9 and 2: Might Hunter's sparseness with language be another way to use motherhood as a metaphor for the altered world? Consider that a mother's bond to her child is primal, requiring few words. Nor do infants yet have the capacity for language to express their needs.

11. What does the book's title, "The End We Start From" mean?

* Some questions from LitLovers.