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Chapter Two discussion

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What are your initial impressions of the letter writing tradition between Parker and her grandmother? What seems to have inspired Parker’s grandmother to begin writing letters to her granddaughter?

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

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17 comments

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  1. I love that they began writing “pretend” letters to each other. Not only did it give them something to bond over that was special just for them, but it also taught Parker a lot about the world. Considering how she was raised, it made a lot of sense for her to have something like that in her life.
    I remember when I was little, my grandfather would get out and play pretend with me all day long. He’d be a waiter for me or a gas station attendant or whatever I wanted. No one else would play with me like that. He was my best friend for years.
    A relationship like that is priceless…

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    • I agree, Cassie. It seems that the letters gave her a “taste” of all the possible adventures in the world and its very sweet that your grandfather had a similarly playful relationship with you. I think when we dig into our imaginations with another person, that’s when we really form those special bonds.

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    • abby

      Cassie, related to your comment that you loved that Parker and her grandmother had “something to bond over that was special just for them,” I wonder if you noticed any other traditions in Chapter Four that added to this bond between Parker and her grandmother?

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

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  2. Kristin

    The letter writing tradition is sweet, almost sad in the way that the two pretended to visit places they had never been. But it’s also magical. It shows just how imaginative these two were, how playful their relationship was. This was particularly important to Parker, whose relationship with her own parents was devoid of all that fun and imagination and adventure.

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    • Thanks Kristin! Very interesting that you have interpreted the letter writing tradition as both sad and sweet. I agree that there are certainly elements of both and as you read on, as you gain more access to Parker and her grandmother’s past, I think you will see even more evidence of both the sadness and the sweetness of their letters.

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      • abby

        Related to your earlier comment, Kristin, do you see any additional examples in Chapter Four of how their relationship is both “imaginative” and “playful”?

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  3. Beverly Frances

    I feel that often we are more able to express our deepest voices in letter writing, maybe because we are not sure how the receiver might react if we spoke the same words. Yet, letter writing can send a mixed message,since the voice quality is missing.

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    • Very good point! I agree, its very possible for the voice in letter writing to be misunderstood since the tone is often missing. I think you’ll see, as the novel progresses, that the meaning in these letters between Parker and her grandmother was supported by the time they spent together. You’ll see more of how their letters were representative of the great moments and the challenges they faced in life together.

      Hope to hear from you again soon!

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      • Nathan Slovin

        I love the letter writing tradition. What a great way to stay connected to her granddaughter, but I can’t help but think that the letter writing was a mask for something else.

        While grandma was committed to letter writing she did not seem to write about real things; they were imagined adventures. Was the letter in the first chapter real or was it imagined like all the others?

        Why did grandma write letters?

        1. Perhaps in later years to get Parker to visit Brooklyn more often?
        2. Maybe she wanted to get Parker to dream or have her own adventures or
        3. Maybe she was filling the void her parents left every time they traveled.

        One interesting note:

        On p. 11 Parker says that the letters stopped around high school yet on p. 16 the letter from Australia was sent to her when she was 16 years old.

        Anyway, the plot thickens and this letter writing thing seems to be a key to something. Looking forward to chapter 3.

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        • Great points, Nathan! I think all your possible reasons for why grandma would write these letters are very probable. Read on, and maybe one of these will stand out as the more prominent of the three!

          Re: “On p. 11 Parker says that the letters stopped around high school yet on p. 16 the letter from Australia was sent to her when she was 16 years old.”

          The letters couldn’t have ended in high school if she received one when she was 16? Couldn’t they have stopped sometime soon after?

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  4. dave

    I happen to think the letter writing experience is one of Grandma’s ways of teaching Parker about the world around them. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t real. It matters that they dreamed of other places and took they time to share these dreams with each other. Just how special the letters were is easy to figure out. Parker still has them. I have a confession. When I was 10 I became a penpal with a someone from Finland. We wrote for three years on and off. The letters traveled very slowly back in the day(no not Pony Express) and it often was a month or two between each. While I often procrastinated writing to him when I actually mailed a letter to him I felt he owed it to me to write a return letter very quickly. Eventually a letter arrived. In high school french class I was assigned a French penpal which also lasted 2-3 years. Same deal, same procrastination, same anticipation. Yet thru many moves over the ensuing years the letters are still in my possession wrapped around a rubber band. maybe this weekend I’ll read a few.

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    • What a wonderful confession! I had a pen pal too, but I think she was from Minnesota (not as far or as alluring as Finland or France, but still had a feeling of distance to it). I love that you’ve kept these letters, and I agree that you should read them again soon!

      I think you make a great point that the significance of the letters to Parker is demonstrated by the fact that she kept them. This is an excellent point and, even if she does not admit it outwardly, we can see that its true through her decision to keep them.

      Thank you for your response!

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  5. Quoting a response from Nathan for Chapter Two:

    “Why did grandma write letters?

    1. Perhaps in later years to get Parker to visit Brooklyn more often?
    2. Maybe she wanted to get Parker to dream or have her own adventures or
    3. Maybe she was filling the void her parents left every time they traveled.”

    Does anyone have any thoughts about whether one of these three possible answers (or all of them) is more likely. Are there any other possible reasons for why grandma would write these letters?

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  6. J

    From what I’ve read so far, it seems like Parker’s parents are rather absentee, both physically and emotionally. We never see Parker call her parents after receiving the letter from her grandmother’s friend informing Parker of her grandmother’s impending demise. If I had received such a letter, followed by a bizarre phone call in which my Grandmother doesn’t really remember having such a letter sent, I’d have jumped on the phone with my Mom or Dad. Unless they weren’t emotionally available.

    I sense that the letter-writing tradition between Parker and her Grandmother served to fill the void Parker’s parents have created. It also doesn’t sound like Parker’s parents are / were all that in touch with Parker when on their jaunts around the world, so perhaps her grandmother wanted to show her that Parker still deserved to feel connected, even with someone who is a few miles away on the other side of the East River.

    I also pick up on some loneliness from her grandmother. Is her grandfather still around? It doesn’t seem like it. We know that her grandmother’s child (one of Parker’s parents) is often away and seems to be distant from Parker, and we have no reason to believe they’re in touch all that often. Maybe her grandmother’s imaginative letters also served to fill a void in her own life.

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    • This is a very interesting point, J. Your possible explanation for why grandma began writing letters to Parker is a good one. Nathan (response above) suggested as possible reasons:

      1. Perhaps in later years to get Parker to visit Brooklyn more often? 2. Maybe she wanted to get Parker to dream or have her own adventures or 3. Maybe she was filling the void her parents left every time they traveled.

      I think the suggestion that part of her reason might involve her own loneliness is very perceptive.

      Your interpretation of the role of Parker’s parents in her own life is very interesting as well. I think as you read on, you’ll see more evidence of this, as well as some ambivalent feelings toward them on Parker’s part.

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  7. dave

    Why would Grandma want to correspond(translate..communicate) with her Granddaughter…Hmmmmm. I’m not in a position to speak for a grandmother but I can speculate.
    1. She loves her Grandaughter
    2. She feels guilty that her grandaughter has been ‘left’ by her parents.
    3. She has a vivid imagination and hopefully a life filled with rich experiences to pass along.
    4. She’s pretty cool…mentoring a troubled Brooklyn girl
    5. She’s lonely
    I’m sure I missed a few!!

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    • Great suggestions, Dave! I think these are all possible and interesting insights into grandma’s psyche and also her relationship with her granddaughter.

      By the way, did you notice a gold star next to your name? That’s in return for five comments in the discussion corner so far. Thanks for your participation!

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