Skip to content

Discussion guide: Eleanor

Please note: In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal important aspects of the plot of this novel—as well as the ending. If you have not finished reading Eleanor, we respectfully suggest that you may want to wait before reviewing this guide.
  • The novel begins with a portrait of a woman named Eleanor, then leaps forward in time to tell the story of her granddaughter, also named Eleanor. Were you surprised to learn that there were two Eleanors? What does it mean that the granddaughter is named for her grandmother?
  • Eleanor’s father, Paul, builds model houses in the attic. What significance does his hobby have? Why does he share it with Eleanor, but with no one else?
  • Eleanor has a very close relationship with her aunt, Gerry. In what ways does this relationship benefit each of them? What draws them together?
  • Midway through the novel, Eleanor tumbles from her world into the world of the Rift. There she meets Mea and Efah. These two characters have a peculiar relationship to one another. Why is Mea afraid of Efah? What does Efah want from her, and from Eleanor?
  • In Agnes’s dream world, she becomes the Keeper, and lives in solitude with her own shadow. What does the shadow represent, and why does it ultimately abandon her?
  • The Keeper shares her valley with two unusual beasts. What is the significance of the beasts’ appearance in the valley? Why does the Keeper permit them to roam, rather than chasing them away (as she does with Eleanor)?
  • Eleanor’s only real friend is Jack, a boy from a similarly broken home. Late in the novel, Jack telephones Paul to tell him that Eleanor is alive, and where she’ll be. Why does he do this? Would Eleanor consider it a betrayal?
  • Why does Efah attack Eleanor and Mea in the Rift? When the ocean sweeps into the Rift, it defies Efah. Who is the ocean? What relationship does this character have with Efah? Have they met before?
  • With the ocean’s help, Eleanor and Mea breach the Rift and enter the Keeper’s valley. What is the key that allows them passage into the valley?
  • In what ways does the novel’s ending echo its beginning? How do you imagine Agnes’s future will change now? What do you believe will become of Eleanor and Esmerelda?
  • Eleanor is a literary novel with elements of fantasy. Do you consider it more of one genre than the other? Does it seem to fall into any other categories?
  • The novel takes place in a fictional town upon the Oregon coast. In what way was this setting important to the story?
  • Eleanor is a novel about grief and forgiveness. What other themes became apparent as the story progressed?

Buy the book!