1. Each story is about someone who doesn’t fit into his world. What are the connections between the stories? What themes do they share? How does the author use tone and style to link his characters and their worlds?
2. Discuss how each character is searching for a certain kind of love. Which characters are most likely to find it?
3. The characters range from a ten-year-old boy (“The Dress”) to a forty-eight-year-old self-deceiver (“The Rose City”). Which characters do you like the most? Whom do you find saddest?
4. “Chuck Paa” is about a young man desperate for acceptance. Do you think he will ever find it? Why or why not? What about the characters in the other stories? Are any of them on the verge of happiness?
5. In “The Rose City” Roland is obsessed with his appearance and the hunt for a husband. Is he a believable character? Do you know anyone like Roland Dott? Do you see a connection between him and any of the young boys in the other stories?
6. What role does California play in each character’s mind? Is California a place of promise in these stories?
7. “Regime” is about a boy who is starving himself. Why does he stop eating? What will make him return to nourishment?
8. What role does sex play in these stories? Is sex a happy event in the characters’ lives?