The following questions can be used as part of a curriculum study guide or as a springboard for a book club discussion.


Discussion Questions

1. The novel opens and closes with Lissa. Do you think she is the main character? If yes, why? If not, who is the main character, and why?

2. Through his storytelling, Lissa’s elderly father takes her with him to “the far end of nowhere,” and the novel’s title is At the Far End of Nowhere. What is the significance of this metaphor?

3. Repeatedly, Lissa talks about being “safe.” What does being safe mean for Lissa? What does it reveal about her character?

4. Lissa and her father rely on certain rituals, for example, Lissa’s repeated counting and Stouten’s precise folding of the newspaper. How do these patterns fit into classic obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms? How do these OCD symptoms help explain this unusual father/daughter bonding?

5. At the end of Chapter One, Lissa says she wants to be “clairvoyant” just like her Daddy. How does the theme of clairvoyance manifest for Lissa and for her father?

6. In “Chapter Three: Maybe, Maybe Not,” what does Lissa’s struggle not to tell a lie tell us about the challenge of dealing with ambiguities? How do fiction and storytelling help us deal with ambiguity?

7. In “Chapter Six: Circus,” why does Jimmie tell Lissa not to worry her father about what happened with Lonnie in the barn? How does Jimmie’s attitude about what happened in the barn affect Lissa’s feelings about herself?

8. Why does it become important for Lissa to “fit in” when she is in high school?

9. Why does Lissa choose to go to the prom with Seth rather than with Ben? What does her choice reveal about 1960s attitudes about interracial dating and gay men?

10. What scenes in the novel comment on racial tensions? How do these tensions play out over the years? Do these tensions increase, decrease, or just repeat?

11. What steps does Lissa take to break free from her father’s influence and become her own person as she grows older? Is she successful in breaking free, in individuating from her father?

12. What five adjectives would you use to describe Lissa at the end of the novel? What kind of role model is she for today’s women?

13. How does Stouten exemplify America’s mechanical age?

14. How does Spence exemplify America’s information age?

15. The novel chronicles a series of social and cultural changes that occur during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. What are some of these changes? How do they impact Lissa and her family members?

16. How do the women’s liberation movement and the Vietnam War peace protests affect Lissa’s self-perception as Miss USO 1970?

17. Throughout the main narrative, which recounts Lissa’s coming of age, Stouten tells Lissa stories/tall tales from his childhood. Why are these stories woven into the fabric of the novel?