Bitter in the Mouth Discussion Questions
8. Author Monique Truong states that "while my first novel, The Book of Salt, features an unreliable narrator, Bitter in the Mouth is a novel that plays with the idea of the unreliable reader." She goes on to say that "the first half of Bitter is constructed as an invitation to the reader to fill in the blanks."
What do you think Truong means by this? What were the blanks in Linda's story, and how did you fill them in? Was your "fill in" based on the stories that Linda tells about her immediate family, your own life experiences, or perhaps what you know about the author of the novel?
9. In the second half of the novel, Linda reveals a significant part of her life story to us. Did the revelation of this fact change the way that you understand her and her story? Did you go back and re-read the first half of the novel? If yes, what did you "see" that you did not see upon the first reading?
10. Consider your first impression of Linda. Although her synesthesia is a rare neurological condition, were there still ways in which you found yourself relating to her sense (pun intended) of being different and disconnected from her family and from the other children in Boiling Springs?
11. What if the author had switched the order of how she told you Linda's story? In other words, what if "Revelation" came before "Confession," and you were presented with the opportunity to identify and to relate to Linda based on her "outer" difference first, as opposed to her "internal" difference. Consider how your own identification with Linda would have been different. Would it have been lessened or heightened or unaffected?
12. Linda tells us that her first memory was a word that triggered a bitter taste. What word do you think it was and who spoke it? What are the clues that lead you to the word?
13. Is Linda Hammerick a Southerner? Is Bitter in the Mouth a Southern novel? Why or why not?