Winner of the First Horizon Award for superior work by a debut author.


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Chapter Seven discussion

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What are your predictions for how this story will progress in Part II? What sort of emotions do you think Parker will demonstrate immediately following the news that her grandmother is sick? What kind of action do you expect from her, based on what we know about Parker so far?

More Food For Thought: Part I of Letters In Cardboard Boxes focuses on Parker’s inability to fully believe that her grandmother is getting older. Is it realistic to assume that Parker would deny her grandmother’s age and condition? Can you relate to this in your own experience?

For all other comments and feedback, including emerging themes and questions for the author, please visit the general discussion page.

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16 comments

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  1. beverly

    I know Parker will handle her grandmother`s aging process with dignity and senitivity beause she is so close to her grandmother. They have a very special bond which makes all of us want to continue reading this beautifully written book and share the special moments that the characters will have together.

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    • Very interesting prediction! I wonder if you think there will be any bumps along the way? Or, do you think Parker will be well-suited for a job as caregiver right away?

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  2. The revelation about Parker’s grandmother’s health is terrible and sad news. I think Parker will be in quite a state of denial for a while, even perhaps pretend that her grandmother’s overreacting and it’s not that bad. It feels like Parker’s grandmother is the only true member of Parker’s family (given her absentee parents), so immediate acceptance of such news is unlikely, and unrealistic. Maybe she’ll run away from it, as she does for so many things, and just ignore it for a while.

    But, given Parker’s penchant for routine, perhaps she’ll institute some sort of routine or order to her grandmother’s life as an attempt to control the ensuing chaos. Her grandmother seems like a strong, even free-spirited woman, however; I wonder how she’d react to a radical new way of life.

    Can’t wait for more!

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    • These are very good points, J. Particularly because of the nature of her illness, I agree that perhaps Parker’s ability to accept this will be strained. Even though we don’t know exactly what is ailing grandma, we do know that it is not something that is particularly visible (at least for now). And even if it were, we typically don’t see things until we are ready to see them, even if they are staring right up at us. And your justification for why Parker might not be ready to “see” this is very perceptive!

      Also, I liked your prediction for Parker’s reaction to include a need to hold on to her routine. She is a rather routinized person, isn’t she?

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  3. Nathan Slovin

    I suspect that Parker’s responses will start with anger; anger that someone else is leaving her life, anger that Tanya knew about this and appears to more easily be able to converse with her grandmother, anger that she cannot share this and grieve with her parents over this.

    Interestingly up to this point I expected Parker to rise up and handle all of this with strength and dignity, but up to this point she has not shown emotional maturity that would support her behaving this way. In fact outside of her grandmother she does not seem to have healthy relationships. In fact, one could argue that her relationship with her grandmother is not really healthy; as her grandmother has consistently lied to her and not shared the details of her illness.

    I am worried about Parker and hope that her relationship with Tanya, someone who seems to be more grounded in reality, will grow and that Tanya will be a source of comfort and perhaps stability during what are certain to be tumultuous times.

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    • Your predictions are very interesting, Nathan. It does seem that Parker’s emotional immaturity will continue to cause struggle. I’m really intrigued by your thought that Tanya could be a grounding, comforting relationship for Parker during this ordeal, particularly because Tanya is so much younger than Parker. It seems that their roles are almost reversed at this point in the novel. As you read on, I think you’ll see more of this struggle in Parker to build strength and dignity as a caregiver and perhaps even more importantly, acceptance.

      I wonder, do you think its more important for someone in Parker’s position to build strength in the face of struggle or to achieve acceptance of that which is happening to her?

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      • Nathan Slovin

        The question is, “how do you build strength in the face of a crisis like this?” My guess is that if the strength is not in you somewhere then you cannot build it (I think it is like muscles – you can’t build muscles unless you have muscles). I suspect that Parker has this kind of strength, but up until now she has not had to use it, she has not had to take care of someone else.

        So how does one become strong in the face of something like this? For me it was a recognition that being the care-taker, being there for my parents when they became sick is who I always thought I was. When they became sick, I wondered whether I would rise to the occasion and be the person I always thought I was. The good news for me is that I did rise to the occasion, but it was not without help.

        I credit the mentoring of a 14 year old boy, AJ, in Phoenix with reminding me that I was a caring, productive and loving person. Dusting off my nurturing skills in my interactions with him and other kids in the program I was part of helped prepare me for what was to come with my parents.

        So while Tanya is much younger than Parker the age difference may not be the factor in whether Tanya helps Parker build the strength or help uncover the strength she knew she had, but never had to use and never got to see.

        “How do you know you have the strength to deal with things like these until you actually have to do it?” In the case of a young adult who has largely been untested when it has come to important life issues and decisions this is not an easy question to answer.

        Perhaps like my interaction with AJ, Parker’s interaction with Tanya will help her discover or uncover the strength she knows deep down inside she has.

        Finally, I suspect one of the first steps to being useful as a caregiver in situations like this is accepting and believing what is happening. After all how can you be an effective Caregiver if you don’t acknowledge or accept that this “thing” is happening to the person I love?

        I know that once I accepted this with both Aunt Joan and Uncle Kalman, it settled me and I became focused on 1) making every minute I had left with each of them count 2) being there for them in ways that were meaningful to them – I became very focused on what they needed.

        I could write forever on this topic. So I will rest now and let others chime in…..

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        • These are very good points, Nathan. I, too, believe in the power of relationships to give us strength during a difficult struggle. And, I admire your acceptance during your struggle with your own parents. I hope Parker can gradually reach this point as well. I guess time will tell…

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  4. dave

    I’m not certain how parker reacts but I think she needs to stay off the road. The BQE is not a ‘Road to Recovery’. Actually I’m concerned that Parker appears extremely vulnerable with a lot of uncertainty about a lot of things. Ironically Tanya appears to be the only ‘grounded’ person in her life and she’s spent so little time with her. Maybe there’s wisdom with youth. By the way the 1991 postcard was great. Keep it up
    d

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    • Dave, very perceptive thoughts on Parker and Tanya, particularly that Tanya appears so grounded (especially in comparison to Parker).

      So glad you enjoyed the letter from 1991! These letters have been significant for Dotty to communicate with Parker during difficult times, and this is perhaps the best example so far, I think. Do you agree?

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      • dave

        I think Dotty is very intuitive with her postcards knowing that parker will read them no matter what. Did the author have a pen-pal in her earlier years?

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        • I agree, Dotty is very perceptive, though this trait doesn’t always seem as obvious in the “real world” as it does in her letters.

          No, I did not have a pen-pal as a child. In school, we were assigned pen pals but the relationships didn’t last longer than a few letters.

          Did you ever get a chance to re-read your letters with your pen pal? As I recall, you were hoping to get to it sometime soon…

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  5. dave

    I still haven’t reread those old letters. Do you think something is holding me back or am I just too busy reshuffling papers?

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    • Seems like life is just getting in the way. Go for it and maybe include a good quote here at the discussion corner? I’m sure readers would love to hear a little excerpt…

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  6. dave

    JUST REMEMBER THE LETTERS WERE WRITTEN BY A 10 YEAR OLD IN FINLAND WHO WAS JUST LEARNING HOW TO READ AND WRITE ENGLISH; I’M SURE MY RESPONSES WEREN’T MUCH BETTER.

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