The Best American Short Stories 2013

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“As our vision becomes more global, our storytelling is stretching in many ways. Stories increasingly change point of view, switch location, and sometimes pack as much material as a short novel might,” writes guest editor Elizabeth Strout. “It’s the variety of voices that most indicates the increasing confluence of cultures involved in making us who we are.” The Best American Short Stories 2013 presents an impressive diversity of writers who dexterously lead us into their corners of the world.

In “Miss Lora,” Junot Díaz masterfully puts us in the mind of a teenage boy who throws aside his better sense and pursues an intimate affair with a high school teacher. Sheila Kohler tackles innocence and abuse as a child wanders away from her mother, in thrall to a stranger she believes is the “Magic Man.” Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Nemecia” depicts the after-effects of a secret, violent family trauma. Joan Wickersham’s “The Tunnel” is a tragic love story about a mother’s declining health and her daughter’s helplessness as she struggles to balance her responsibility to her mother and her own desires. New author Callan Wink’s “Breatharians” unsettles the reader as a farm boy shoulders a grim chore in the wake of his parents’ estrangement.
“Elizabeth Strout was a wonderful reader, an author who knows well that the sound of one’s writing is just as important as and indivisible from the content,” writes series editor Heidi Pitlor. “Here are twenty compellingly told, powerfully felt stories about urgent matters with profound consequences.”

Curriculet Details
96 Questions
98 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for 11th and 12th grade students contains interactive videos exploring theme development and using textual evidence to draw inferences, as well as annotations describing character development, structure, and figurative language. Students will explore the themes of the nature of pain and addiction and the difficulties of love. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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The purpose of a forward is to introduce the author or topic of a book. This book also includes an introduction by the editor (you will read that next), but the forward provides a framework for this entire collection. Because this book is a selection of some of the 20 best American short stories from 2013, there is no one topic, but see if you can determine how this forward sets a tone or purpose for the book to come.  
How would you describe the author's purpose in this forward? What framework or tone has she provided you with as you approach the rest of the stories? 


Elizabeth Strout's own voice in this introduction comes with authority. Notice how she writes from the first person, inviting the reader to be a "we," to recognize in her words, their own experiences. While she is trying to explain her own purpose in selecting stories for this compilation, she is also solidifying her own authority, as if to say: "You can trust that these stories will be worth it." 
How does Strout transition into this section in which she begins to briefly touch upon some of the authors and stories that will follow? 
Strout's philosophy in the highlighted section is a suggestion about how to approach the stories you will find in this book. Based on her description, what kind of stories do you think you will encounter? Will they be plot-driven action stories, deeply tragic romances, or something quieter, simpler? How does Strout convey this to you in her introduction?  
What is the metaphor that Strout has included in this introduction to explain the position a reader or writer takes with tone? 

The Provincials

Watch the following video to learn about point of view and cultural perspective. Consider what clues you are receiving in this story that help you understand the context of the events.  (This annotation contains a video)
Where can you infer this story is taking place? 
Tension underlies the conversation and establishes the mood here. The narrator reveals that both he and his father would have been considered outsiders by Raul, but also explains that there are unspoken problems between him and his father. On the surface, they talk about other things, such as Joselito or the mold stain, but this trip is clearly one of "coming home." In this sense, the narrator and his father are forced to look at things they might rather leave unsaid.  
What is the meaning of the word ennui in the highlighted sentence? 
"Deflated" seems like the perfect word to describe this scene. How do each of the characters express their sense of disappointment? How does this impact your reading of the story? 
What is the tone of the phone conversation between the narrator and Rocio? 
Consider what this image reveals about the narrator's cultural perspective. He admits that some of the description comes from his brother's accounts, but he is clearly filling in the rest. Why is he even making this up?  
How would you explain what the narrator is doing? How does his philosophy about performances and roles influence his behavior? 
The structure of the text has now switched over to that of a play. This interesting choice seems like a natural segue after the narrator began fulfilling a role that was not real. But, it is important to remember that this entire short story is a work of fiction. How does this structural change impact your reading? 
Which of the following best characterizes Santos? 
These stage directions provide the reader with what the dialogue does not. The television in the background of the conversation provides thought provoking images that go along with the conversation.  (This annotation contains an image)
What does Celia represent to Nelson? He already has a girlfriend. How does the setting and his role impact his behavior? 
Nelson and Santos characterize the same thing (longevity) in very different ways. Santos calls Nelson's existence diluted while Nelson thinks of Santos's treasured past as being in ruins. How do these two points of view come together to highlight important underlying ideas or themes? 
What is significant about the fact that Manuel does not have a nickname? 
Though this is a short story, we learn much about each character through his actions, the things said about him and direct descriptions from the narrator. Watch the following video to learn more about character development.  (This annotation contains a video)
How do these stage directions impact the mood of the story? 
Provincialism has a negative context of a lack of sophistication or knowledge. Here, Nelson seems to be acting out this role of the city-dweller, the one who wanted too much to stay behind. However, the story has been one purposefully crafted scene. What might this mean about the real attitude toward this provincialism? 
Consider the title and structure of this short story, as well as the narrator's own revelations of truths and lies. Who are the real provincials? What is the underlying theme here that the author is getting at? 
How does this information call into question the reliability of the narrator? Was he ever reliable?  
The highlighted sentence contains an example of _____________. 


Each author is featured at the end of the book in the Contributor's Notes section. It might be a good idea to read about each author before you begin his or her selection. You may also choose not to, to let the story speak for itself. Whichever you choose, the information is there. An understanding of this particular story is supported by the brief bit of information about Charles Baxter.  
How does the author create a sense of authenticity to the relationship in just a few short pages? 
Franz Kafka was a 20th century writer who was born in Prague in 1883. He is well known for his contributions to existentialism and often wrote stories that explored the themes of alienation, conflict and mystical transformations. In one of his most famous novellas, the main character Gregor has turned into a giant bug (The Metamorphosis). How is this background information about Kafka helpful? Why might this name and location be here in this story? (This annotation contains an image)
What is the impact of the simile in the highlighted sentence? Be sure to explain what the simile means in your answer. 
Note the differences in reaction to the tram accident. Why does Elijah seem so concerned while Susan is brushing it off like it does not matter? What does this say about them?  
This conversation about pregnancy and dreams, about the old lady and the tram accident, about Susan's delusional behavior all _____________ a conflict to come.  
Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression that some women have after giving birth. Many factors can cause this depression, including hormones, and the effects can range greatly. Considering what you do know about Susan, is her reaction to this event on par with her character? Could it actually be postpartum depression, or something else, that is causing this eruption?  
What is the tone of this scene in which Susan is watching TV? 
The turn of events in this story offer the couple a distraction from the argument at hand. However, the fight seems really to have positively impacted Elijah who now feels alive and heroic. Susan, on the other hand hears the question: "What will you do with another day?" and distrusts his story.  
Does this story include a resolution? What is it?  


Annette, Nora's mom, is referring to the persecution the Jews have faced throughout history (most notably, the Holocaust) as well as the present day prejudices many hold against the Jews. Nora reveals her perspective as a college student when she says "You're othering them." Othering is a term used to refer to marginalizing people. These perspectives reveal a lot about the two characters as well as the fairly common problem of addressing discrimination, bigotry or simple lack of exposure.  
What can you infer from George and Nora's conversation? 
The Breakfast Club was a popular movie in from the 80's. Watch the trailer below to catch a glimpse of the film's plot. How does this reference seem appropriate for this story? How does it impact the mood? (This annotation contains a video)
What does the highlighted line suggest or foreshadow? 
Watch the video below to learn more about symbolism. What symbols do you see in this story? (This annotation contains a video)
Wellness and sickness run throughout this short story (both the physical and the mental kind). Think back to the video on symbolism. Malaria is the title of the story as well as a significant part of it. What might malaria symbolize? Are there other symbols that are more important in helping you to understand the story's theme? 

Miss Lora

This underlying tone of mass destruction is woven throughout the story. All of these references to movies in which the plots are driven by Soviet-era sentiments and atomic bombs create a sense of doom. Is the story itself really so gloomy? How do these references impact your understanding of the story? 
Though the narrator has a girlfriend, he is brutally open and honest about his impulses, concerns, fears and desires. Miss Lora seems an unlikely target for his affection, but he seems drawn to her. Why? 
How does the narrator characterize Miss Lora? 
Junot Diaz, the author, says about this story that talking with friends about their first sexual encounters with older women "just broke the last pinion, gave [me] the permission to get it [the story] done." The narrator in the story struggles with his desires in a similar way. Is there something that seems to "give him permission" in his pursuit of Miss Lora? 
What can you infer about the men in the pictures?  
What is the impact of this untranslated material on your experience with the book? Do you speak or read Spanish? How does this or would this appeal to you more if you did?  
How does the language, or diction, and the informal dialogue influence the theme of the story? 
Second person point of view is rarely used in narratives like this. More typically, when a story is told from one character's point of view, it is told in first person. Since this story is a coming-of-age story, the second person point of view serves to invite the reader in.  
How does the setting in the highlighted paragraph influence the tone of this section? 

Horned Men

KidRobots are vinyl and rubber figurines that artists design. Like any collectible item, KidRobots are a symbol of youth and art. As the protagonist, Bob, catches this glimpse into his daughter's world, consider what other aspects of her life he notices. Why are these significant?  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the meaning of the word 'protuberant' as it is used in the highlighted sentence? 
How does this conversation strike you? What does this tell you about the rest of the story?  
The narrator is speaking from the third person point of view revealing much of Bob's thoughts about his adolescent daughter. How  does this point of view shape the story? How would this be different if told from Becca's point of view? 
Watch the brief video explanation of the housing bubble that Becca mentions here. How does the video shed light on the characters in the story? (This annotation contains a video)
In this scene, Bob thinks back to his mortgage lending days, the fact that he is hiding what he has found in the attic from his family, and his thoughts of the Wagonsellers. Which of the following best characterizes what these things make Bob feel? 
In essence, this entire story has been a flashback, much like the story "Malaria." As you finish the story, consider the resolution to the story. Is it mundane, exciting, happy? How does this story's tone develop through the structure? 
How would you compare the point of view and tone of this story with those of Malaria? Include evidence from the text to support your analysis. 

The Third Dumpster

Taoism is an ancient Chinese philosophy that emphasizes harmony with nature, simplicity and virtue. Tao means "the way" and the book Tao Te Ching is the second most translated book in all of history (after the Bible). The tattoo that Morehouse has is a link to his Chinese heritage, but also expresses his philosophical beliefs. See the ba gua chart below to learn about the fundamental principles of reality in Taoist thought.  (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following conveys a mild sense of humor? 
Asbestos is a material that used to be used in home construction. It has been found to be highly carcinogenic (cancer causing) and there are specific laws and rules for disposing of it. Moorehouse, despite his Taoist thoughts and vegetarian diet, seems oddly alright with exposing the workers to this deadly material.  (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted selection reveals that Morehouse and Goodwin assume their parents feel ______? 
What is the meaning of the word demonstrative? 
What does Goodwin mean when he says he wishes he had ended up "like Morehouse instead of like Morehouse turned inside out"?How do the brothers compare to each other? 
Gish Jen, the author of this story, says that in writing this story, she thought of her own parents and observed "how difficult it was to have come to America - what an opportunity it was, but what a price they [her parents] had paid in terms of connection and community." This sense of alienation underlies the humor of this story. How does Jen convey use language to convey this difficult reality? 
Section One Quiz 

Encounters with Unexpected Animals

Watch the following video about tone and mood. How does the highlighted section contribute to the mood of this story? (This annotation contains a video)
What is the girl's tone in this conversation? 

Magic Man

Notice how the narrator, from the third person omniscient point of view, has access to the inner thoughts of both the mother and S.P. As the story continues, the plot will weave in and out these two characters' viewpoints. This is almost like a mini parallel plot structure. As you continue reading, notice how this structural choice builds suspense.  
Which of the following best characterizes S.P.? 
Visit the website below and read the poem "Foreign Lands" from the Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden Verses. As you read this poem, consider how the imagery and content align with this short story.  (This annotation contains a link)
The two main characters in this story are a mother and her little girl. What about the current states of being for each one (the mother in middle age and the child in dream-like youth) contributes to the development of the story's theme? Be sure to name that developing theme as well as the details that have led you to that conclusion.  
The title of this story is Magic Man. S.P has dreamed of a Magic Man and is now calling this stranger a Magic Man. The dream she mentioned is a "scary story" she tells her little sisters. Keep an eye out for the use of the word magic in reference to men. Who else seems to be a Magic Man? How does this influence your understanding of the title and the story? 
The advice in the highlighted section is an example of __________.  
S.P.'s innocence and desire to believe in the good, the fairy tale and her dreams, are what allow her to follow this man despite her inner warnings that this is not smart. How does this compare to her mother and her own decision making?  
Why do you think S.P. decides that her mother would not hear her even though she is searching for her and is close by? What does this mean? 

The Chair

The author uses very descriptive imagery in this story. Here, the narrator is noting the many little lessons he will teach his son just as he relates the particulars of the sunset and the leaves. Later in the paragraph, the narrator almost equates the lessons to the leaves. Both will end up swishing away into the wind of the future. Watch the video below to learn more about imagery. Why would the author spend so much time including these details? (This annotation contains a video)
The father is _____________ to punish his son. 
What is the effect of this statement "I was thinking, I think" ? This statement has come up a few times so far. What does it mean? What does it do to the story? 
The highlighted section includes ________. 

A Voice in the Night

This story contains three intersecting stories. This type of structure is called parallel plot. Watch the video below to learn more about how authors use this structural feature. As you read, consider how this choice impacts your understanding of the story. (This annotation contains a video)
What do the three characters in each of these sections have in common? How do they seem to be related so far? 
A pushmi-pullyu is a two headed llama-like creature from the The Story of Dr. Dolittle. What is the purpose of this comparison in the highlighted section? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best characterizes the tone or voice of the section labeled III?  
Which of the following themes is being developed in this story? 
Belief is the struggle here for the boy in his bed in Stratford. What is the struggle for the other characters?  
Read the version of Samuel's story in the link below. As you read, consider how the story is told in the Bible as compared to the way it has been woven into this story. (This annotation contains a link)
How does the author use or alter the story of Samuel and Eli in the Bible to frame this story? How does the Bible story develop the important themes in this story? 


Of this story, Lorrie Moore says: "'Referential' is not an actual theft nor trying to slink about as if it is committing one but is intended as- what? A tribute- and like most tributes it contains both debts and detours, shadowings and separatenesses, the collaging of other narratives, and even a joke or two." The story was inspired by Vladimir Nabokov's famous story "Signs and Symbols." You may access the story in the link below. It would be worth reading a little bit of it in order to understand the author's statement about the inspiration for this story.  (This annotation contains a link)
How does the author characterize Pete and the protagonist's relationship? 
This thought process or philosophy reveals so much about the protagonist of the story. It can be gathered from her life that she has experienced one pain after another and has been forced to accept life as a process to be endured. How does this attitude effect your understanding of her attempts to be close to others? 
The phone is a ____________ of bad news.  


Watch the following video about theme. As you read this short story by Alice Munro, consider how each of the story's elements comes together to produce a theme or themes.  (This annotation contains a video)
This story most likely takes place ________.  
Setting is an important part of the exposition of a story. Some authors lay out the setting clearly, while others build it up more slowly. As you read, be sure to note all of the important little details that reveal the setting of this story.  
How does the setting impact the mood of this story? 
The Mennonites and the Amish both come from a Protestant sect known as the Anabaptists. People often confuse or equate the two groups, but there are differences between the two. The most notable difference is the extent to which the Amish follow a more strict and visible code of simplicity than the Mennonites (who often appear to be as typical as the next person). Visit the website below to learn more. (This annotation contains a link)
What effect does Jackson have on Belle's life?  
Universal health care in Canada dates back to the 1940's. Though It was not until the 1960's that each Canadian province enacted all of the components of the Canada Health Act, this is far earlier than many other developed nations (including the US).  
Think back to the video on theme. Belle is getting ready to go in for surgery and laments that she has remained so "ignorant." What does she mean? How does this contribute to a theme at work in the story? 
What sense does this statement give you of the story that is to come?  
Which of the following gives you the impression that Belle's father came upstairs with the intention of seeing her in the bath? 
This place, like Belle's farm, will prove to be an important place for Jackson. Notice how it is that he comes upon this place. Keep in mind what is happening and how Jackson becomes connected to this location.  
What is it that attracts Jackson to people? 
Jackson, who seems to be running from something or at the very least trying to avoid facing his experiences at war, seems to improve everything he touches. Why is this important? What theme does this help develop? 
What can you infer about Jackson and Ileane? 
We do not learn much about the experiences Jackson may have had in war, but here we see that he at least has had to show "ruthlessness" at the time when he would have been at war. Much of the imagery of Jackson and Billy Watts drinking away their young fear of impending war and the unknown that was to come, is reminiscent of war. Which images stick out in your mind from this section? 
What seems to be the factor that makes Jackson's living with Ileane acceptable to both families? 
This statement reveals the reason that Jackson could not go home. This simple and sorrow-filled decision not to go home after the war, not to reunite with Ileane, has written the course of Jackson's life.  
What is it that has driven Jackson to a life of solitude?  

Chapter Two

The framing of this story is unique. The character relating the story, Hil, is in the act of telling the story to an audience at an A.A. meeting. She will eventually relate the story to other help groups. Consider what Hil's voice brings to this story as you continue reading.  
What is the meaning of the word adroitly? 
Though we don't know exactly which parts of this story Hil is relating to the A.A. group, it is easy to see the humor in this all, sad as it may be. Though it isn't exactly ironic of for recovering alcoholics to be drinking (relapse is a very common thing) there is some sense of irony in what seems to be the common place nature of this entire event, or at least the subdued reactions to it all. Does the story strike you as funny? Something else? 
What is significant about this image? Why do you think the author might include this backdrop of impending devastation?  
Black comedy is a term used to refer to humorous stories that include morbid or dark content. While some aspects of the story about Bergeron Love's breakdown are filled with sadness, the story is related with detachment and humor. Here, the reader learns, rather un-empathetically, that Bergeron Love died shortly after this episode. While this piece of information is not funny, the delivery is.  
Why does Hil use Bergeron's story at all? 


This doll exists as a strange symbol. Why would Nemecia have dropped it upon seeing Maria? What does its presence in the room suggest?  
What emotion does Maria seem to feel toward Nemecia? 
Nemecia's status as an orphan and the mystery surrounding her family members's deaths makes her seem protected or even favored by the adults in the family. Maria, who experiences Nemecia as enigmatic and frightening, is too young to fully understand. How is this perspective important to the feeling of this story? 
Maria says that she "needed to be drawn into  Nemecia's story." Why do you think she felt that way? 
Visit the following website to read Psalm 37. Why do you think Maria really chose this Psalm? (This annotation contains a link)
The author notes that this story is loosely based on events from her own life. She says in the Contributors' Notes that she was "interested in its [the murder's] reverberations and in the way trauma can become a unique kind of treasure, a currency to be hoarded or envied or spent." How is that playing out in this story? 
What is it that drives Maria to skip the Corpus Christi Mass? 
How does hearing the truth about Nemecia help Maria to see the truth about her own feelings? 
Why is Maria's perspective so important in this story? As a structural choice, how would another narrator have impacted the story and its themes? 
The doll ushers in this story and is one of the last objects of discussion. As a symbol, what might it represent? Why would Nemecia, now Norma, either forget or choose to forget it? 
The highlighted sentence includes  _________.  


Contextually, this statement seems humorous. The Rules of Conduct list would obviously be offensive to someone like the Yyonne Borneo that is being portrayed in this story. But this character, Yvonne Borneo, is definitely not a static character. None in this story will be.  
What does the highlighted selection reveal about the expectations of both characters? What is the nature of their relationship at this point? 
This beautiful description equating DJ to a baby characterizes Cora as being deeply intuitive and understanding. DJ's predicament seems hopeless, but the explanation of Cora's thoughts provides a picture that helps the reader understand DJ a little bit better.  
What does the episode with DJ provide for Cora and Yvonne? 
Georgia O'Keefe is a famous American artist who was well known for her paintings of flowers and landscapes. Many of the flowers she painted did have very sensual qualities. (This annotation contains an image)
To what might Cora's feelings about getting another cat compare? 
How does the setting here establish a tone or mood? As you continue reading, compare your expectations of Yvonne and her lavish home with what actually occurs.  
What purpose does the highlighted section serve? 
In the Contributor's Notes, the author encourages (in an almost sarcastic manner) the wealthy elite to visit the following website to help support the troubled and needy. Visit this website now and consider its format and power as compared to this story.  (This annotation contains a link)
After exploring the Homeless Youth Alliance website and reading this story, compare the effectiveness of each of these two mediums (short story- informational website) in conveying the needs and perspectives of troubled women. What does one format achieve that the other does not? 
Section Two Quiz 

The Semplica-Girl Diaries

Many of the details of this story are revealed without context or clear explanation. Watch the video below to learn about textual evidence and drawing inferences. Which clues in this story must you use to make inferences about what is happening and what themes are being developed? (This annotation contains a video)
This entry names a handful of people (Lafayette, Picasso, Disney, Greta Garbo). What role do these people play in the story? 
Diction is defined as the word choice or type of speech from the narrator or speaker in a piece of writing. For example, some of the stories in this book have been written from the first person point of view in a slang or colloquial manner. The story "The Provincials" made use of this type of language. Other stories, like "Train" and "Magic Man" were written in a more formal style with elevated language and speech from the characters. How would you characterize the diction in this story? 
How does the structure of this story influence the diction? What effect do these two elements have on the tone of the story? 
The narrator addresses much of this diary to a future audience. This is common in diaries, but more often than not, this format is used for working out one's own struggles. Visit the following website to view John Adams's diaries from the 1700's. You can read his entires and even see images of the original works.  (This annotation contains a link)
What is the purpose or goal of this narrator's diary as compared to the diary of John Adams that you just explored? Revisit the website in the last annotation if you need to re-read. 
So far we have seen these SGs mentioned quite a few times. We might assume based on the name of the story that SG stands for Semplica Girls. What pieces of textual evidence give you the clues you need to infer who or what these SG's are? 
How does this family measure happiness? 
Our narrator here seems to delight in the sadness of others. Even though he is mostly happy because his own daughter is finally in a position of power, this entry reveals a lot about our narrator's character.  
What does this Scratch-Off win foreshadow?  
Eva is not ok with the fact that the family has the SGs. She seems to have a nature that is counter to the rest of the family. Does this make her the antagonist of this story? Or is she something else? 
How do people view the SG's? 
Notice how the narrator reveals this piece of important information. The sparse wording and the choice to include this as dialogue may suggest that this information (the fact that it was Eva who may have brought this all upon the family) is difficult for the narrator to process or understand.  
What is the meaning of the word eradicate? 
This information reveals a lot about the change is perception or understanding for the narrator. He is beginning to see the SGs in a new light, as people. During American Slavery, many former slave owners and citizens who supported slavery struggled to view slaves as anything other than property. Many groups worked to change this perception and to end slavery in the US, including women. It is interesting that the SGs are all girls and that the one to oppose their existence most vehemently is Eva, a girl. Visit the link below to read the 1864 letter "To The Women of the Republic." How does this letter impact your understanding of Eva as a character?  (This annotation contains a link)
After reading "To The Women of The Republic" how do you view Eva as a character?  

The World to Come

A phaeton is a horse drawn carriage like the one in the picture below. Not as rough or primitive as a wagon, a phaeton was usually a fancier carriage and often was a marker of status. What does this detail reveal about the setting? (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted statement is an example of _____________.  
Having just finished reading "The Semplica-Girl Diaries," how does the language of this diary differ? Just looking at the highlighted sentence, we can see that the narrator thinks deeply about emotions and her own thoughts. As you continue reading, notice how the author uses this structure to do something completely different from what George Saunders did in "The Semplica-Girl Diaries." 
How does the setting of this story impact the mood? 
Here the reader learns more about Nellie and her death. The narrator reveals this information after learning of the loss of another child. The narrator is good at relating her own emotions but seems to struggle with understanding Dyer's. Clearly, they are both mourning for the loss of their daughter, but each in his or her own way.  
What is the meaning of the word augmenting? 
The language here suggests that Dyer has some understanding of his wife's feelings for her friend. We can assume at the least that he detects the pleasure that Tallie brings his wife and compares that to his inability to do the same. 
What can you infer has caused the narrator and Tallie to feel so passionately for each other? Be sure to use evidence in explaining their connection.  
This information puts the story in the year 1856. This would have been pre-Civil War. We can assume from details that these characters do not live in the city and so we can tell they live harsher lives than those who are in more populated areas. What can you tell about the lives of women from Tallie and the narrator's conversations? How does the image of life for women in the story compare with this photograph of three women from 1856? (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted line express the narrator's __________________. 
Watch the video on foreshadowing. What does the highlighted paragraph suggest or hint at? (This annotation contains a video)
What does the narrator fear? 
Laudanum is an opiate that has been used for everything from a cough suppressant to sedative. It was often widely prescribed to women as a way to combat symptoms associated with menstruation. The narrator's grief has so overwhelmed her that she seems to give in to taking the laudanum she had previously been reluctant to take.  
What do the narrator's words reveal about Finney? About Tallie's death? 

The Wilderness

The language of this short story often takes its readers deep into an instance, thought or emotion. In the highlighted section, the narrator explains how the protagonist faces a moment of surprise, a moment that reveals too much of her to her students at the sound of a cell phone or computer "bird." As you keep reading, try to follow these little spirals of thought and see what they show you. The sentences themselves can be complex, so re-read them if necessary. 
Explain the effect that the visit to the museum as a little girl has had on the protagonist.  
This encounter and exchange with the older professor seems to have stuck with the protagonist. What does this exchange reveal about her character? 
How does the narrator define readers? 

The Tunnel, or The News from Spain

This story is part of a larger collection of "asymmetrical, thwarted love stories," the author remarks in the Contributor's Notes. As you read, consider which love story is the prominent one in this short story. 
How does the highlighted statement characterize Harriet? 
What might the brief anecdote of the crossword puzzles symbolize? 
Like many relationships, the new found sense of intimacy and love that Rebecca experienced with her mother while Harriet was very sick, has begun to fade. This may seem strange given the nature of the relationship (not romantic), but this is a unique way to explain or relate the feeling.  
The news plays an important role in this story. Watch the first few minutes of the clip below to see the reporting on the death of Jackie Kennedy in 1994. What is significant about this event in relation to the story itself? (This annotation contains a video)
How does Rebecca's relationship with her mom compare to her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter? What does this tell you about her character?  
Keep this highlighted description in mind. What do the words 'ravenous' and 'erotic' do to your understanding of this character?  
In the highlighted metaphor, Rebecca is compared to a/an _____________. 
This relationship, unlike Rebecca's other two, is characterized by passion. What do you predict will happen between Rebecca and Ben? 
The narrator's voice here almost reads like a spoken voice over in a movie (see clip below for an example of this). How would this story be different if told from Rebecca's point of view? What would you not see or see differently?  (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following best characterizes the relationship between Cath and Rebecca? 
Septic shock is a severe infection throughout the body that often results in multiple organ failures. It is particularly prevalent in the very young or very old. Because Harriet is immune-compromised and cannot feel the pain of a urinary tract infection, the infection has spread elsewhere in her body. 
What effect does the news seem to have on Harriet? Why is it so important to her? 


The word 'feral' means wild. Husbandry is the art of agriculture and raising livestock. Though it may surprise you to read about the job offer given to August, sentimentality for the creatures we call pets does not really exist on the farm. The cats are a nuisance, just like rats or squirrels are for some people.  
What is the mood that this imagery creates? 
What does the mother mean here? How does she stand in contrast to August's father?  
How does August feel about Lisa? How does he express this? 
Paul Harvey was a famous, conservative, Mid-Western radio commentator from the 1940's to the 2000's.  (This annotation contains an image)
How does August feel about his father?  
August's mother is not exactly the most credible character. She has clearly been affected by what is going on between her and her husband. She may also have been the cause of some of their marital problems. However, here, she is trying to give August some advice, or a tough life lesson. What do you think is her motive? 
The story of August being forbidden to do the milking anymore is an example of _____________. 
What do you think August intends to do with the bowls? Think back over the details in the story as you try to predict. 
What is Paul Harvey's role in this story? 
Section Three Quiz