Conversation Guide for Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg
1. How did you feel about Liz when you learned she’d had an abortion, and kept it a secret? If your feelings changed over the course of the novel, what caused this change? Did Dante’s ultimate compassion and love alter how you saw Liz?
2. At one level, Middle of Somewhere can be understood as an allegory, with life as a wilderness and the trail representing the journey through it. The Root brothers, within this metaphor, represent evil. What other elements of the story (characters, events and places) have allegorical significance?
3. Liz’s marriage to Gabriel began with love and hope and ended in betrayal and disaster. As Dante pointed out, they were very young. Is that the whole story? What is your understanding of what happened between Liz and Gabriel? Do you think Liz has put that behind her?
4. How do you feel about Liz’s affair? Did you feel she had “paid” for her infidelity with the death of her husband? More generally, how do you view Liz in light of her upbringing, her actions (the abortion, the affair, the secrets) and her feelings about herself?
5. Along the trail, Liz and Dante encounter, and sometimes befriend, other hikers. What role did these characters (Brensen, Paul and Linda) play in the larger story?
6. The story was told from a single point-of-view: Liz’s. What would have been added, or diminished, by adding other perspectives?
7. The Root brothers became more and more of a threat as the story progressed. Did you see the stress they caused as a mirror of the conflict between Liz and Dante? At what point did you realize just how dangerous the Roots were? The reason the Roots pursued and threatened Liz and Dante was never completely clear. Did this bother you or did you draw your own conclusions?
8. The barren splendor of the Sierra is central to this book. What did the landscape mean to Liz, and did that change over the course of the hike? Can you imagine this story in a different setting? In other words, how dependent was the unfolding and resolution of Liz and Dante’s journey on the physical surroundings, including the weather?
9. If you have been on an outdoor adventure, did that experience cause you to reflect on your life in a new way? In general, does “getting away from everything” or deliberately jumping out of one’s comfort zone promote new thinking? Is this something you’d welcome in your life?
10. Why do you think Liz choose to go on the hike? What was she looking to accomplish? Did she succeed?
11. What do you believe happens after the book ends? Do Liz and Dante marry? Have children? Does Dante reconnect with his estranged sister, Emilia? Do you foresee any changes between Liz and her parents?