22 Feb Discussion Questions for “What Lies Beyond the Stars”
- Michael Goorjian describes his book as “philosophical fiction.” What elements of philosophical and/or spiritual exploration did you find in What Lies Beyond the Stars? In what ways do these ideas correspond to your own views or beliefs? Did the use of fiction make the philosophical aspects of the book more accessible or more difficult to relate to?
- The novel is set in San Francisco’s Technology Industry, as well as in the rural coastal town of Mendocino, California. In what ways do these two settings reflect the main character Adam Sheppard’s struggle/s? What is your own relationship with technology like? In what ways do you identify with Adam’s struggle/s?
- Attention is a major theme of the book. How is the idea of attention and what we do with it represented in the novel by the character Rene Adiklien? How does the character of Virgil Coates conversely represent the idea of attention? Beatrice tells Adam that, “anything we give our attention to, anything we dream, can become real” (page 229). What do you think she means? How is this illustrated in the novel? What are experiences that you have had that might demonstrate what Beatrice is alluding to?
- How would you describe the relationship between Adam Sheppard and Blake Dorsey? What does Blake represent in society? Would you say that Blake is using Adam, or is their relationship beneficial to both of them?
- In Chapter 15, Rene Adiklein tells Blake that “human beings, like bees, are easily trapped by their own mechanical nature.” What does he mean by this? How does Adiklein differentiate the “worker bees” from the “butterflies” in society?
- In Chapter 16, Beatrice tells Adam that “Beatrice” is not her real name, but a nickname given to her by Adam’s grandmother, Anne. Why do you think Anne called her “Beatrice,” and in what ways does the character Beatrice reflect the meaning behind her name? What does Beatrice represent to Adam?
- Many questions about mental illness are brought up in the book. How would you describe Adam Sheppard’s mental condition? How is the relationship between mental illness and creativity explored in the novel? How is the relationship between mental illness and spirituality explored in the novel?
- Dr. Mendelson and Dr. Agopian have very different approaches to treating Adam. How would you describe these two doctors’ approaches? Are there examples in your own life of a Dr. Mendelson and/or a Dr. Agopian?
- How are butterflies represented throughout the novel and what do they symbolize? What other symbolism did you find in the novel?
- The homeless man Michael tells Adam that to become free he will need to dig through the center of the earth. What do you think he means by this?
- In Chapter 27, Adam sees himself being split in two when his step mother slaps him in his dream. One side of him follows his step mother to the car, while the other side stays on the merry-go-round in the playground. What do you think these two versions of Adam represent? In Chapter 32, these two versions of Adam meet at the center of the earth. What is the meaning of this reunion?
- At the end of the novel, the night sky cracks open. What does this mean to you?
Further references for discussion: