1) Why does Orla leave behind the city and the career that she loves so much? Do you thinks she has made peace with this decision?
2) In moving to a bigger house, Orla worries her family will grow apart. Does this worry prove true? Do you think the size of a home affects the relationships inside? What about for your own family?
3) Discuss Orla and Shaw’s relationship. Is it different in the Adirondacks than it was in the city? How does Orla feel about Shaw’s painting? Does their agreement to focus on Shaw’s career change how Orla sees her own art?
4) How does each family member – Orla, Shaw, Eleanor Queen, and Tycho – handle the move from the city to upstate? What do these two distinct settings represent?
5) Discuss the scene in which Orla confronts the bear. Is she right to try to shoot? Is she guilty of a crime? What would you have done?
6) What message is Orla trying to send when she talks about The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago?
7) The trauma of losing her younger brother, Otto, hangs around the periphery of Orla’s narration. How does this loss inform her perspective as a parent?
8) Is Orla a good mother? Why or why not? Does she think of motherhood differently at the end of the novel than she did when she was living in the city at its start? Do you?
9) Both Orla and Shaw make sacrifices, for different reasons, at different times in their relationship. What does sacrifice mean for each of them and how does it figure into the larger plot?
10) How does the family’s relationship with the natural world change or evolve over the course of the book?
11) Do you think there is any hidden meaning or symbolism in the animals that appear in the book?
12) If Orla hadn't been so naïve about—and afraid of—the natural world, do you think the story could be reframed as something magical? Or miraculous, even?
13) Did you consider any correlations between the tree's ability to adjust to a new occupant and the earth's experience as a host to all humans? Do you believe in the possibility of a sentient ecosystem?