1. THE SPEED OF LIGHT features three very distinctive characters
and their struggles to overcome the difficulties of their past. Which
character did you relate to the most? And why?
2. The novel ends with each character on the brink of a new
discovery. What do you imagine happens after the end of the book?
What do you think the future holds for Sola, Julian and Paula?
3. Compare and contrast how the presence of color, scent and
sound informs the lives of Julian, Paula and Sola.
4. Certain metaphors recur throughout the novel and have thematic
as well as structural significance. For example, the metaphors of
breaking into pieces and unraveling appear for all three characters,
and this imagery is also reflected in the frequent alternation of
point of view. The result is an impression of fragmentation, which
also sets the stage for the interweaving of the characters' lives.
Can you find other examples of repeating metaphors and their effects
in the novel?
5. The pivotal role of science and scientific language in THE
SPEED OF LIGHT is not only apparent from the book's title, but also
Julian's science dictionary literally becomes the novel's fourth voice.
What were your impressions of the definitions? Did any of them strike
you as particularly resonant in your understanding of the characters
and/or the book overall?
6. In the novel, bearing witness to tragedy implies a responsibility
held by both the person telling the story and the person listening.
How do you think these responsibilities differ? Do you agree with
Sola that each role is important in the healing process? Do you think
this idea is applicable to the world today?
7. Did any of the characters or scenes from THE SPEED OF LIGHT
stay with you after you finished reading the book? If so, which ones
8. The bonds of family are a central theme in the novel - both
the secrets and silences that arise as well as the close relationships
formed between parent and child, brother and sister. Are there any
feelings in the book that resonate with your own family experiences?
Do you think this kind of complexity is common to the American family
9. During the course of the novel, each character experiences
a significant change and ends up in quite a different place than he
or she expected. Did you, as a reader, find the book altered any of
your perceptions or experiences in the world around you? If so, discuss
these changes and the feelings they inspired.