About the book:
Pursuing graduate study of spectacled fruit bats in Queensland, Australia, Annabel Mendelssohn spends her free time picking leeches from her eyes, discovering waterfalls, and writing to her sister, Alice, whose life, by contrast, is domestic and settled. Aside from occasional fears that loggers will terrorize her camp, all is going according to plan; that is until Annabel’s mentor, Professor John Goode, suddenly disappears. Haunted by the ambiguous circumstances surrounding her own brother’s death two years earlier, Annabel becomes determined to find her missing professor-but she is not alone in her search. Leon, Professor Goode’s son, has left his teaching job in a Boston museum to conduct his own rescue efforts. Soon Annabel and Leon cross paths and together, in the vibrant and unruly rain forest, they try to unravel the mystery of the professor’s disappearance. As their search progresses, they soon come to realize that sometimes the truth reveals itself in more ways than one.
This is a graceful debut novel of love and adventure.
About the author:
Q. How does landscape inform the shape of the novel? Explore how sense of place, and place itself, has a different impact on Annabel, Leon, and Alice.
Q. One of the themes of Field Guide is missing persons-different characters disappear, or are lost, in different ways. What do you think happened to Professor John Goode? What do you believe happened to Robert? Discuss Annabel’s idea that “some people…no matter how they’re lost to you and no matter what you find when you search, will always, somehow, be permanently missing.” (p. 264)
Q. Do you feel the characters are honest about their desires and longings? Are there times you think characters are withholding information or deluding themselves?
Q. What does science and field study mean to each of the main characters? To the shape of the story? How does the idea of work factor in each character’s motivations? How does the “absolute concentration” necessary for field science that Annabel observes in Professor Goode (p. 11) influence relationships between people in the book? If you were Annabel, would you have left your site, after the bats were missing, to search for John Goode?
Q. The images in the novel relate to both physical and emotional states throughout the story. Are there certain images that stayed with you after reading? Is there an image you feel represents each place or each person in the book?
Q. “Some scientists we are, Annabel thought, all the way out in the Southern Hemisphere, thousands of species to investigate, and every pathetic person looking for love.” (p. 30) Discuss the theme of coupling, and uncoupling, in the novel. How do characters come together? Examine the role of cross-cultural relationships. How does the natural world reflect upon the more human constructs?
Q. Discuss the role of secondary characters: Sabrina, Maud, Andrew, Mike Trimble, Janice Martin, Markos, Ursula, and so on. Do you consider the bats characters? How does Annabel relate to her subjects as opposed to her fellow humans?
Q. What do the familiar relationships reveal-father/son, sisters, sister/brother, for example? How does family obscure or clarify each character?
Q. On what levels does the novel provide a Field Guide, as its title suggests? Do you think the term refers to a particular character or characters? To one setting or to certain emotional passages?
Q. How do you think Annabel changes over the course of the novel? What changes do you see ahead for her after the novel ends, if the story-her return to the states with Leon, a reunion with Alice and their parents were to go on?