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After the Parade Discussion Guide: Home

Lori Ostlund

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Discussion Questions

(From the publisher.)

1. Discuss the significance of the title of the book. Did your interpretation of the title change as you read? In what ways and why? 

2. Many years into Aaron and Walter’s relationship, Aaron finds “the Pygmalion aspect of their relationship…the hardest to shed.” (p. 21) How has Aaron’s relationship with Walter shaped him? After Aaron ends his relationship with Walter, Walter tells him “I saved you, Aaron.” (p. 5) Why does Walter say this to Aaron?

3. Ostlund begins After the Parade with two epigraphs. Discuss the significance of each. Do they enhance your reading of the book? If so, how? 

4. Despite telling Aaron that Mortonville is “not a place for starting over,” (p. 110) Aaron’s mother, Dolores, chooses to move there after the death of her husband. Why does she do this? Is she right about Mortonville?

5. Why does Ostlund alternate between Aaron’s current perspective and his childhood? How does this shape the narrative?

6. Aaron’s mother tells him “I think about that every day, Aaron—how lucky I was to have that missionary visit our class.” (p. 125) Describe the missionary’s visit. What does Dolores learn as a result? Why is she so grateful for the experience? 

7. Describe Aaron’s teaching style. Do you think he is a good teacher? Why has he chosen to teach?

8. As Aaron is leaving Walter “the thought came to him that he was like his mother: sneaking away with[out] saying good-bye, disappearing into the night.” (p. 9) In what other ways is Aaron like his mother?

9. When Aaron’s father has an outburst of anger during a family vacation, “Aaron and his mother got into the car. They said nothing because they know that silence was best in the aftermath of his father’s anger.” (p. 55) In what other ways does silence shape Aaron’s life and reactions to things?

10. Aaron learns that “unlikely friendships…were often the easiest to cultivate.” (p. 185) What other examples of “unlikely friendships” are there in the book? Why are these friendships “easiest” for Aaron?

11. Gloria tells Aaron that Clarence “hate nearly everyone, but especially children…. I always thought it had to do with their size, but after you left that day, he told me he thought you might group up to be ‘more bearable’ than most folks.” (p. 275) Why do you think that Clarence feels disdain for most of people? What is it about Aaron that Clarence responded to in a positive way?

12. Aaron “was not even sure that talking about the past helped. Maybe it did allow you to clarify things so that you could move on, or maybe it just kept pulling you backward.” (p. 295) What do you think? Is Aaron’s trip back into the past cathartic? What does he learn? 

Suggestions for further reading