What do you do when you’re full of questions: what happened to missions to the moon? Why spend a trillion dollars on war? Where did America go wrong? If you’re Thomas, a young man nursing migraines and a lack of direction, this calls for drastic action. To find some answers, Thomas kidnaps a NASA astronaut and brings him to an abandoned military base on the edge of the California coast. Then the questioning begins. The answers must be honest. The back and forth might even hurt. It might get uncomfortable. But eventually the truth will emerge.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
By Dave Eggers
Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupCopyright © 2015 Dave Eggers
All rights reserved.
—I did it. You’re really here. An astronaut. Jesus.
—You probably have a headache. From the chloroform.
—What? Where am I? Where is this place? Who the fuck are you?
—You don’t recognize me?
—What? No. What is this?
—That? It’s a chain. It’s attached to that post. Don’t pull on it.
—Holy shit. Holy shit.
—I said don’t pull on it. And I have to tell you right away how sorry I am that you’re here under these circumstances.
—Who are you?
—We know each other, Kev. From way back. And I didn’t want to bring you here like this. I mean, I’d rather just grab a beer with you sometime, but you didn’t answer any of my letters and then I saw you were coming through town so— Really, don’t yank on that. You’ll mess up your leg.
—Why the fuck am I here?
—You’re here because I brought you here.
—You did this? You have me chained to a post?
—Isn’t that thing great? I don’t know if you’d call it a post. Whatever it is, it’s incredibly strong. This place came with them. This was a military base...
Excerpted from Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers. Copyright © 2015 Dave Eggers. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and other material that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, Dave Eggers’s captivating new novel that follows a distraught young man who takes desperate measures to reconcile his frustration with our government and with his own life.
1. How does the all-dialogue structure enhance the disorientation one feels upon entering the novel? How is the book similar to and different from a traditional play?
2. Thomas compares his capture of Kev to the government’s clandestine capture of enemy combatants for interrogation (page 8). What does this tell you about Thomas’s attitude toward government policies? Do political beliefs drive any of his other kidnappings, or are there other factors at play?
3. Although Thomas exudes confidence in his scheme from the start, his perspective can easily be called “unreliable.” How does the dialogue structure highlight when he can and cannot be trusted? What is the effect of this characterization coming both directly—through Thomas’s words—and indirectly—through the words of others?
4. What are the values that Thomas admires most in himself and others? Are these consistent with his own behaviors, in the past, present, and what he imagines for his and others’ futures?
5. Compare how Thomas greets and explains the situation to each of his captives. What does his tone at the beginning of each new chapter foreshadow about their relationships and how history will unfold?
6. How would you describe the humor in the book and its effects on you, the reader, the characters, and plot? Does laughter enhance or alleviate the reader’s unease throughout?
7. What makes Marview, a place that Thomas describes as “forgotten . . . anything near it . . . toxic and dead (page 39),” an ideal setting for what occurs in the novel? Consider, too, what its name suggests about the kind of experience one might have there, and whether the novel fulfills that implication.
8. How does Thomas’s conversation with Mr. Hansen introduce the idea of a very wide spectrum of guilt and sympathy for individuals? Where does each of the characters in the book fall on this spectrum, and does this change at all over the course of the novel? Is the set of captives somehow representative of the different degrees that one might have sympathy for or ascribe guilt to someone else, or do they tend to extremes?
9. Does what happened to Thomas as a boy, as we learn through Mr. Hansen and his mother, justify or explain any of his actions and thoughts? Why or why not? What do the histories of Kev and Frank, the cop, do to complicate arguments of nature vs. nurture with respect to Thomas’s motives and sanity?
10. How do the captives attempt to challenge Thomas? Consider what strengths Kev, the congressman, and Sara employ when trying to lead him out toward the police waiting for him.
11. Why is Thomas so drawn to the congressman, in particular, and constantly seeking his approval? How does the congressman embody the religious, militaristic, and moral ideals Thomas claims to have?
12. Does Thomas’s personality reflect the mind-set of a zealot or extremist, and if so, how? What does he think his greater purpose is, as an individual and for the world/society?
13. Did you feel that Thomas’s plight became more personally, rather than politically, motivated at any point in the novel? If so, why and when? Consider the sequence of events after Frank’s capture, and what might be a fundamental common ground between, for example, the meaning of Don’s death for Thomas and his views on U.S. space exploration and foreign policy.
14. Do Thomas’s arguments about war, government spending, mental illness, and social welfare apply to events today? Did you ever find yourself agreeing with Thomas’s views, and how did you feel about that?
15. At the end of the novel, can you say definitively what Thomas really wanted from his captives, separately and together? What do his statements about motive—“I just want to get something I want” (page 205) and “Do you realize what a strange race of people we are? No one else expects to get their way like we do. Do you know the madness that this unleashes upon the world—that we expect to have our way every time we get some idea in our head?” (page 173)—suggest about his own sureness of why he’s doing what he’s doing?
16. What is it about Sara’s relationship to Thomas’s fantasy life, versus his real life, that allows him to be so open with her?
17. What do you make of Thomas’s understanding of a fulfilling life? In conjunction with the last line of the book, discuss his judgment of people who are “paragons of virtue and heroism but in the end . . . just want to stay alive [and] don’t want to be part of anything extraordinary” (page 208). Does the way the novel ends suggest whether he’ll be successful in finding fulfillment?
18. What do you think is the meaning of the title of the book? How are these two questions raised throughout even as they’re never actually spoken? Are they answered, and if so how?
19. In what ways does dialogue stand in for narrative descriptions of setting and physical descriptions of the characters? What could you most easily visualize in your head, and what was more difficult?
20. In other books, Eggers has assumed the voice of a variety of characters real and fictional—from his friend Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee from the Sudanese Civil War in What Is the What to the adventurous boy Max in The Wild Things. How does this novel similarly explore, and expand upon, the range of voices and psychological traits from which Eggers can tell a story?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Each book Eggers writes is an exploration of style. This novel, written entirely in dialogue is no different. While this form may be off-putting for some, I found it entirely engaging and appropriate for 21st century readers whose favorite authors are themselves. Eggers is a pioneer in writing and I can't wait to see what he does next.
Pure genius. David Eggers is magnificent.
Different the whole book being a dialect was interesting. There are a lot of meanings and messages through out the conversation about society, and the government. In all a decent book, not what i was expecting but glad i read it.
And it does nothing for the story which is silly anyway