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Chapter One discussion

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Does it seem odd that Parker’s grandmother would express her uneasiness through a letter? What do you think it says about their relationship? Do you communicate in unique ways with anyone in your own family?

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33 comments

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  1. Robyn Lerner

    When my grandfather sends me mail it’s always on scrap envelopes and letterhead from his former printing business. I always like seeing the dated typeset and graphics, not to mention the different companies that hired him to do work for them :)

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    • Sounds like a very unique momento from your grandfather. As you read on, you’ll see how Parker and her grandmother have collected and saved their letters to one another. Have you held onto any of these letters from your grandfather?

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  2. I don’t know about other families, I just know myself, and as for myself, it is much easier to address “difficult” issues in writing. It gives me time to work out exactly what I want to say, and how, rather than having to have an off-the-cuff discussion about something that could turn … intense. It may be a sort of mechanism I use to keep people at a distance from myself so as to avoid the sorts of emotional entanglements that cause pain, I don’t know. It seems to me that, perhaps, Parker’s grandmother is that sort of person as well – she prefers to avoid the drama and high-intensity reactions, and therefore finds it easier to express herself in written form.

    I, personally, am in very loose contact with my family – they are ranchers and tend to be out working, so are not easy to catch on the phone. I e-mail and talk with my niece on a book forum we are both on, and send letters to my dad once in awhile.

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    • Very interesting, Katy. I like how you connect her grandmother’s letter writing with a way to address more difficult issues. The disconnect, the ability to avoid “the drama”, is certainly preferable for many reasons to many people.

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    • abby

      Hi Katy, related to your response: in Chapter Four, Parker receives a “letter” from her mother indicating that she will not be able to make it to Thanksgiving dinner. You had mentioned in your response above: “it is much easier to address ‘difficult’ issues in writing.” Do you feel like her mother gave this difficult moment the attention or seriousness it deserved in her letter? Does Parker’s reaction to this note make sense to you? What do you make of the tone in her mother’s note?

      You can refresh on chapter four here if you’d like:
      http://www.abbyslovin.com/letters-in-cardboard-boxes/chapters/chapter-Four/

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  3. I agree, Toni. However subtle, she’s definitely trying to introduce a difficult subject without addressing it directly.

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  4. Greg

    I don’t think it was odd of Parker’s grandmother to write her the letter. The reasons are because when Parker was on the phone with her boyfriend she was detached from the conversation; I also think Parker is very stressed from her job and her interpersonal skills require some help. I think Parker and her grandmother have a strong relationship. Maybe grandma knew by writing the letter that Parker would fully understand the situation. I personally don’t have an unique way of communicating with anybody in my family.

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    • I agree, Greg, I think Parker and her grandmother do have a strong relationship. I’m very interested in why you think Parker’s interpersonal skills need help. Do elaborate!

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  5. Parker seems (at least in this first chapter) to not take Grandmother very seriously and the letter demanded attention. My family is very much into letter writing in extreme circumstances when we don’t feel “heard”. Although I’ve written letters to my dad that I never really sent him, he has received some that would have a measure of boldness in them that would not otherwise be expressed through verbal communication. I guess it’s easier to “be real” in a letter for some people.

    I don’t know if you would call this a unique way to communicate, since I actually had a best friend that communicated exactly the same way! Every time she had something heavy on her heart to express, she did it through writing. I’m not exactly sure if she did that because she knew that was my way of corresponding with my loved ones and she wanted to “speak my language” or if this was her own personal way as well.

    Looking forward to the next chapter! I like Parker already!

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    • Great point, Angel! Perhaps its not so much a “unique” way to communicate as it is a mode of communication that people used to use much more often, a remnant of a past without emails and texting. In the coming chapters, you’ll see a lot more examples of Parker and her grandmother trying to “speak each other’s language” through letters.

      So pleased you’re enjoying the novel so far!

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    • abby

      Related to your comment above, Angel: “Although I’ve written letters to my dad that I never really sent him, he has received some that would have a measure of boldness in them that would not otherwise be expressed through verbal communication.” I wonder what your thoughts are on a moment in Chapter Five which states: “Parker recalled once, during a bold phase in her life, having saved the money her parents had sent for over a year and mailed it back to them with a note, Use this for a plane ticket to see your daughter.”

      I wonder, do you relate to this comment at all? Does the boldness in this letter seem to contrast at all with what Parker might have been able to say had she attempted to confront her parents in person?

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  6. dave

    writing a letter to parker is exactly how grandma can best communicate with her. it is also the surest way of ‘saying’ everything and knowing that it has all been ‘heard’. her thoughts are clear and complete. she will not be interrupted. if you think about it writing a letter is perhaps the most personal of all communication modes because the writer must take the time to write and the reader needs to focus on the letter. it shows the intensity of feeling grandma has for parker. It wouldn’t have been very interesting had grandma texted or emailed I’ll have to think about the unusual ways I communicate with my family. Maybe thats for a later discussion. maybe I’ll write a book. I can’t wait for chap.2

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    • I agree with the idea that a letter allows the writer to communicate an important thought without interruption. Very good point!

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  7. dave

    does anyone out there feel that there’s something lost in todays fast world of texting, facebook etc. in the way we deal with each other?

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    • I feel like there’s something lost in the carefulness of people’s words. Since we can communicate so immediately, words fly out much quicker and cannot be taken back as easily. There seems to be a decrease in the amount of time people spend thinking about what they say.

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      • Does anyone agree or disagree?

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  8. Nathan Slovin

    When I read how often Parker called and visited her grandmother I was surprised that her grandmother chose to communicate via letter. But then again she is probably “old school” and for some of us caught in this whirlwind transition to instant communication via the internet writing a letter or sending a note in the mail is still something we might do.

    Then I thought maybe her grandmother was eccentric (clue #1 telling her granddaughter that she was near death in a letter and clue #2 having Gladys write the letter and clue #3 including instructions on what to do when she is gone in the letter) or maybe a hypochondriac. What was even more odd was that she was not dead yet and grandma did not call to tell her that the letter was written in error, that she had not died.

    After she sent the letter and then did not die why didn’t she call her granddaughter? That is my question? And yes I am curious as to what kind of relationship they have where grandma thought it was appropriate to communicate about death in this way and furthermore to have someone else write the letter.

    I never considered that Parker and her grandmother had an odd or strained relationship evidenced by this letter. So I am still not certain what this says about their relationship. But I can tell you I am looking forward to finding out……

    For me staying connected to my family is a high priority and I use every method I can to stay in touch with my kids and yes for one texting is the best way, the other FaceBook and the third all modes of communication are effective. I guess in the name of staying connected and communicating I would take any step; so finding unique ways to communicate is important to this. In some instances communicating in unique ways may be evidence of a strained relationship; perhaps where direct phone or in person conversations are difficult for one of both parties.

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    • Thank you for such a thoughtful response! Your questions are certainly valid ones and, as you read on, I think you’ll find the answers to many of them (most, later on in the novel). I think its interesting, in particular, that you picked up on the fact that her grandmother did not call to warn Parker about the letter when, in fact, she did not die. Why wouldn’t she have anticipated that this would have caused such a response from Parker? Why did she not think to call her? I think you’ll find the explanations later in the story…

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  9. Danielle

    I agree, I think letters are just a way that elders tend to express their thoughts . I love how my grandparents still send long, handwritten letters. There is something about their handwriting that’s very comforting and very meaningful. I try to save them but they always get shuffled around. My grandfather will still sign my grandmother’s name, even after her passing two years ago.

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    • I really like your thought that handwriting itself can be comforting and meaningful. Very interesting comment, Danielle. Thank you.

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    • abby

      Danielle, related to your earlier comment: “There is something about their handwriting that’s very comforting and very meaningful.” There is a quote in chapter four that I think will resonate with your observation from earlier; “Parker reached for it, noting that the difference between the florist’s bubbly writing and her mother’s rigid, angular lettering, seemed to mock her disappointment.” I hope that description resonated with you!

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  10. Greg

    Parker’s interpersonal skills require help because she didn’t seem to care what her boyfriend was telling her. Since, she is working so much she could use some time to her self; some quiet down time can help. I got the image that Parker only talks to a limited number of people, and the rest she avoids. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, I’m just trying to make my case that her interpersonal skills are in need of help.

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    • Interesting point, Greg. I think your image of Parker and the fact that she “talks to a limited number of people” is very intuitive. The unfolding chapters will either confirm this or not, so I hope you’ll continue to comment on this thought in the future. For your first comment, I see some evidence that she didn’t care what her boyfriend was saying because she was distracted by what she found in her mail — that she had not received a letter in so long that its presence was very distracting to her. Your thoughts on this scene are very interesting and I appreciate the assessment of Parker’s character. Hope to hear more from you in the next chapter and all that follow!

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      • Joann

        Is it possible that with all the means of communication available today the only real way to get someone to actually hear you is to put it in writing, even if it a text message? Then they have to make the time to actually read it. What does that say about us?

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        • Great point! I think we’re also struggling with, not only a problem of being heard, but also having a complete over-saturation of ways to communicate. True, I could send you a text if I want to say something, but people are usually walking while texting, driving, sitting at dinner, etc. The same goes for talking on the phone or emailing. We seem to want to do more and more and more, while rarely taking the time to do one thing (like communicating) at a time and make sure we are truly heard.

          Maybe this is how grandmother felt about Parker and her busy, modern life. Maybe she felt like a physical letter that she was not expecting might be able to slow her down…

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    • abby

      Greg, did Chapter Two or Three — her weekly brunch with her friend Jill, and her first meeting with Tanya — add anything to your intuition that Parker struggles with her interpersonal relationships? I see some evidence to show that Parker feels awkward in certain situations and was curious if you had picked up on any of them in chapter two or chapter three.

      Links:

      http://www.abbyslovin.com/letters-in-cardboard-boxes/chapters/chapter-two/

      http://www.abbyslovin.com/letters-in-cardboard-boxes/chapters/chapter-three/

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  11. dave

    if grandma thinks writing a letter to parker might make her slow down a bit she’d better start writing a whole lot more and a whole lot faster. i heard today that a major reduction in postal service is in the works. How ironic. we all regret the pace of life yet we keep making it more difficult to go slower.

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  12. I do much better with the written word. I rarely write a real letter, but my main form of communication is email. I hate talking on the phone and am cooped up in the house with the kids so much, I hardly get any face-to-face interaction either.
    While I agree that we sometimes write things without thinking, I think it is more that we are able to speak to SO many more people now than before computers/internet/cell phones/etc. We saw less people, so we said less things carelessly. I make a lot more mistakes when I speak to someone in person now, but I have had to censor and watch myself closely with what I put out for the public to see on Facebook and places like that. We’re much more vulnerable now with all the social networking. Many more people know more about our personal lives than ever before. I think that is what has happened rather than us speaking more carelessly through the written word.
    I find that if I’m careful about it, I am able to express myself much more clearly by writing everything down at once. If I am upset, nothing is going to come out of my mouth right!
    All that being said, if my grandmother MAILED me a letter telling me she was dying, I would be pretty upset!!! :-)

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    • Agreed, Cassie! If my own grandmother sent me a letter saying she was dying, I would be very upset also! I think that’s definitely what her grandmother was hoping to do, to elicit a sort of response to grab her attention and communicate her uneasiness while she had Parker’s attention. Our lives do get so busy, and we communicate with SO many people at once, I think its very possible that her grandmother began to feel like she couldn’t compete with all the distractions.

      You mention your own children in this response: do you think you will choose to communicate with them through “the written word” as they get older?

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      • Actually, I have already started writing journals for each of them…telling them special things about them and our lives as they grow up–things I don’t want to forget. I actually need to get caught up! Thanks for reminding me!! :-) I would LOVE to share pretend letters with them also. And, I think I am going to encourage them to write each of their grandmothers a letter every now and then, since they don’t get to see each other very much.

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        • What a wonderful idea!! I’m sure a lot of readers out there would be interested in this very unique idea, Cassie! I think a journal is a great way to recall moments in your child’s life and also a way to bond later on, maybe when they’re “too old” and it becomes a creative way to communicate with them. Thank you!

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  13. abby

    Hi Toni, your comment above reminds me of a similar theme in Chapter Four, where Parker and her grandmother are together for Thanksgiving. Do you get the sense in this chapter that her grandmother struggles at all to discuss serious issues with her?

    Link to Chapter Four:
    http://www.abbyslovin.com/letters-in-cardboard-boxes/chapters/chapter-Four/

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    • abby

      Interesting, Toni! I like that you feel a protective vibe from grandma. As the novel progresses, I think you’ll see some evidence of this shifting a little; as Parker assumes more of a caregiver role, she will need to move into unfamiliar territory and become more protective of her grandmother, rather than vice versa. I hope you’ll check back to discussion corner and comment on this theme as it develops!

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