A complex story with many topics to spark meaningful conversations!

  1. Are Claudia and Mirabella both good friends to each other? If so, how? If not, who is the better friend and why? What makes a good friend?
  2. What lessons do girls learn subconsciously from their mothers? How have those lessons changed from your youth to the current generation?
  3. When discussing her pregnancy, Mirabella says, “I want it to be a girl. But I need it to be a boy.” Why would she think this?
  4. Do you think Mirabella was in denial of Garridon’s true character or do you think she really believed the excuses she invented?
  5. Mirabella states that part of the appeal of the idea of an abortion is “finding the old Mirabella” — how often do we wish we could still be the person we used to be, and what lengths are we willing to go to hold on to the illusion that we haven’t changed?
  6. Discuss the nursey rhyme about the fox and goose. What symbolisms exist in that song given the political and cultural environment of Communist Romania?
  7. The night of the abortion, Mirabella experiences nervousness: she finds herself covering her belly and whispering, “it’s okay, it’s okay” and then stops when she realizes she’s talking to the fetus. Do our bodies ever reveal subconscious fears, desires, beliefs, doubts? How?
  8. In the beginning, Claudia says she sees a girl who will change Romania because she’s buying contraband. At the end, when she abandons Alizabet to go to Bucharest, she states that becoming a doctor will be her redemption. Compare and contrast Claudia at the beginning and at the end–do you think she still believes she can change Romania?
  9. Claudia seems brave – she’s not afraid of offending the Securitate. What does scare Claudia?
  10. Discuss the various ways Mirabella sees what she wants to see instead of what is actually there.
  11. Which of the three women–Mirabella, Claudia or Rachel — are the bravest? Are any of them not brave?
  12. Compare and Contrast David to Garridon.
  13. At various times, Claudia wants to be a construction worker, then a doctor. Both were male dominated fields. Are they still and, if so, why? If not, when and how did the shift happen?
  14. What are some sacrifices mothers make? Which are expected and which sacrifices do most mothers not expect?
  15. Claudia’s parents punish her for having sex before marriage, stating that doing so is immoral. They learned she’d been intimate by reading her diary, which is an invasion of privacy and a violation of trust. She is their daughter–but clearly they think she’s old enough to marry, which implies they see her as an adult. Were they then being hypocritical, punishing her for being immoral when they were unethical or do parents have the right to read their children’s diaries?
  16. Review the Historical Notes section which gives information on Dr. Sophia Ionescu, who was the first female surgeon. Can you see similarities or differences between Dr. Ionescu and Claudia?
  17. Choice is important to Claudia. Why is it so important for her to choose something? What does choice offer us?
  18. What does this quote mean: “Freedom is not a reward or decoration celebrated with champagne… it’s a long distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting.” From Albert Camus.
  19. What are some habits or things that we use as a crutch to get us through rough times? What might have Claudia, Mirabella and Rachel used as a crutch? What about each of the children? What did each of them use to overcome hardships?
  20. The RFE and VOA were very influential in sparking the 1989 Revolution. How can the media influence real change? If so, is this mostly a positive thing or negative thing? Do you think the media still has the same kind of power as these radio broadcasts or things like the Fireside Chats had? Why or why not?
  21. Rachel and Aaron have an inside game — the “uncover me” game. Rachel says, “It’s a way to speak hard truths.” During this game, Aaron whispers, trying to avoid being picked up by planted mics. Rachel displays nervousness; she says, “he is my husband. But he is also Securitate.” Discuss the ramifications and potential effects of everyday life if you could not trust your own home, or those closest to you.
  22. What are some reasons abused children might become caretakers?
  23. Consider Auner’s secret–keeping the letter from Rachel hidden from Alina. His reason was that, “If she didn’t ever think about Mama, then she wouldn’t care whether we had something from her or not.” Discuss the justifications we create for keeping secrets from others; what are some you’ve used?
  24. What makes something real?
  25. Alina says that “the thing about being mad is that the hurt isn’t as bad” – is anger ever a defense mechanism for pain? Is anger always a mask for a deeper emotion?
  26. The story of Silver Claw and his brother, Dusktooth, is one about the war between good and evil. Alina feels the tug of both. Discuss how we all battle good and bad impulses daily.
  27. Alina says, “I do not need protection. I need freedom.” Does freedom offer or steal protection? In what ways?
  28. Discuss the things children hear adults say. What are some things the adults in your life said that you might have accepted at face value without questioning its validity.
  29. Consider the tale of Silver Claw. Discuss similarities and differences between Dusktooth and Silver Claw’s relationship with Alina’s relationship with Auner.
  30. Alizabet says, “In Taramul Viselor, everybody matters. Everybody is a grown-up.” In what ways do you think a child might come to believe that adults are more valuable or important than children? Are they?
  31. What does Markus’ history -and his sister’s personality – reveal to us about Markus? In what way could it explain his behavior towards the group?
  32. Discuss the emotional and physical effects of true hunger.
  33. Chimp tells Alizabet, ‘You got clean for me, didn’t you’ and this bothers Alizabet. Many sexual abuse survivors talk about feeling dirty and/or broken. Is this the same as feeling ashamed? Why might we feel shame or “dirty” for something we couldn’t control?
  34. Compare and contrast Alina with Alizabet. Both girls experience the sexual abuse. Both experience the same hunger and neglect of the home. Still, they are very different. What drives each one? What might contribute to how they handle the abuse differently?
  35. Discuss the symbolism of the green blanket and why it is so hated.
  36. How does each of the kids’ handicaps impact them – or does it?
  37. Which Taramul Viselor story most resonated with you and why.
  38. “I don’t have a mother. I don’t know what a mother is.” — What makes someone a parent? Are any of the biological parents really parents to the children? Why or why not?
  39. What is hope? What role does hope play in everyday life?
  40. Imagine you’d never been outside. Discuss what you think you’d experience on your first trip outside your door: what sights, sounds, smells, textures would overwhelm your senses? What kind of emotions might this spark in you? What emotions did it provoke in each of the kids: their journey from the home to Taramul Viselor?
  41. When Alina nearly falls to her death at the cliff’s edge, she is frozen with fear at the idea of standing.  Alizabet says, “Alina is the strongest of us.”  Do you agree? 
  42. Ekko says, “I think your body remembers things. I don’t think it forgets.” He says this when talking about how his hand, the one deformed when his father held it against the hot stove, still hurts when he moves it. How can emotional pain manifest physically?  Our bodies are designed to warn us of pain–does this include emotional pain?
  43. Alizabet says, “Stories are the strongest magic.”  Do you agree? How are stories like magic?  Discuss what the story you’ve loved the best means to you
  44. The girls have a hatred of the green blanket. They refuse to use it even to stay warm. What are some examples where you’ve experienced strong emotions towards a physical, inanimate object as a result of life-defining trauma / experiences?
  45. Who do you think was the narrator of the first chapter in the last section?
  46. What did Alizabet die of?
  47. Were you surprised at the choice of professions Ekko and Auner made? Why or why not?