Bitter in the Mouth Discussion Questions

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1. Bitter in the Mouth is a novel that invites us to consider what it means to be a family. How are families defined and constructed within its pages?

2. Linda Hammerick begins her story with her great-uncle Harper because she believes that "a family narrative should begin with love." How does her great-uncle, a.k.a. Baby Harper, help her to understand what it means to be loved?

3. Linda's "secret sense," auditory-gustatory synesthesia, causes her to taste words. How does her unusual relationship with "the word" shape Linda's personality and life? What other characters in the novel have a unique relationship to "the word"?

4. According to Linda, "[w]e keep secrets to protect, but the ones most shielded -- from shame, from judgment, from the slap in the face -- are ourselves. We are selfish in our secret keeping and rarely altruistic. We act out of instinct and survival and only when we feel safest will we let our set of facts be known." Consider the secrets that are kept in the novel and by whom. Do these instances prove Linda's assertion or disprove it?

5. Linda's grandmother Iris is the "family truth teller." What are the examples in the first half of the novel of Iris telling us the truth? Did you understand them to be "truths" or were they, in a way, hidden in plain sight?

6. Linda Hammerick and Kelly Powell have been best friends since the age of 7. What did they have in common that brought them together?

7. "Fat is not fate." This is one of the ways that Linda distinguishes herself from her best friend Kelly. What is fate then? What are the examples of fate in Bitter in the Mouth?

Continued on page 2:  More Questions


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