The Dog Stars - Second Sunday Book Club August Meeting

The book for August is The Dog Stars by Peter Heller.We have posted information about the author and a reading guide. It might be helpful to take a look at the reading guide AFTER you read the book but before you attend the meeting. The guides always seem to provide good insight, and help to facilitate better discussion. The Meetup will be held at Loxley's Restaurant in Lancaster, PA. Hope to see you in August!


About the Author    

Peter Heller is a longtime contributor to NPR, a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and Men's Journal, and a frequent contributor to Businessweek. He is an award winning adventure writer and the author of four books of literary nonfiction. He lives in Denver.


Book Description     

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller - Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life–something like his old life–exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return–not enough fuel to get him home–following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face–in the people he meets, and in himself–is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for. Poetic, thoughtful, transformative, this novel is a rare combination of the literary and highly readable.

Reader’s Guide

1. The prose style of The Dog Stars is clipped, terse, often fragmented. Why would Heller choose this way of writing this particular story? In what ways is it fitting?

2. At the beginning of Chapter III, the narrator wonders why he’s telling this story. What might be his motivations? Who does he imagine his audience will be?

3. Hig says that Bangley “had been waiting for the End all his life.... He didn’t do anything that wasn’t aimed at surviving” [p. 71]. He also clearly enjoys killing people. In what ways is Hig different from Bangley? How did “the End” affect him? How does he feel about killing?

4. How and why does Hig’s relationship with Bangley change over the course of the novel?

5. Jasper’s death is a turning point for Hig. How and why does it affect him so powerfully?

6. When Cima’s father asks Hig why he came to their canyon—why he flew beyond the point of no return—Hig can’t find an answer. What might have prompted Hig to take that risk? What was he looking for?

7. When they decide to take a ewe and a ram with them on the plane, Hig says, “Like the Ark. Here we go” [p. 273]. He says it jokingly, but does the novel offer a sense of hope that life on the planet might continue, postapocalypse? What other biblical references occur in the novel?

8. The Dog Stars is a serious book about a devastating subject, but what are some of its more lighthearted moments? Why is it important that the book have this mixture of tenderness and violence, anxiety and peace?

9. What has caused the end of human civilization in the novel? Why have the scattered survivors become so savage? Does the postapocalyptic world Heller presents seem accurate and likely, given the state of the world today?

10. Why is Hig’s relationship with Cima so important in the novel? What makes it particularly touching, given what each of them has suffered?

11. The novel’s ending is ambiguous. Cima, Hig, Bangley, and Pops have formed a kind of family, the spruce and aspen are coming back, eagles and hawks are flourishing, but the trout and elk are gone, water is disappearing, and mysterious jets are flying overhead. What might happen next, or in the next ten years, for these characters and the world they live in?

12. Why does Heller conclude The Dog Stars with Hig’s favorite poem “When Will I Be Home?” by Li Shang-Yin? Why is this a fitting way to end the story? In what ways is the novel about the longing for home?

13. What does the novel imply about human nature, after the constraints of civilization have been removed? What does it suggest about the possible consequences of the way we are living now?

14. What similarities does The Dog Stars share with other recent dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and The Road? In what important ways does it differ from them?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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  • Susan F.

    Had a great time discussing and hearing everyone's reaction to a fascinating book.

    August 15, 2013

  • Kim D.

    I work until 6pm so would not arrive until about 6:30p. Would it still be alright to attend?

    July 20, 2013

    • Kathlene S.

      Kim - I must sincerely apologize. I never received a notification about this comment, and this is the very first time I am seeing it. I am the assistant- organizer of Second Sunday Book Club, and want to let you know that you would be warmly welcome whenever you can make a meetup. We all certainly hope that you consider joining us for a meeting soon.

      August 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Outstanding book discussion.

    1 · August 11, 2013

    • Kathlene S.

      I think it was one of the best we have had in my 7 years as a Second Sunday member.

      August 12, 2013

  • Donna W

    Discussion brings so much more richness to the book experience than the reading alone. I am glad to have found such an interesting and lively group to share perspectives. I always come away with more to ponder...and food! Win/win.

    1 · August 12, 2013

  • Kathlene S.

    A fascinating book to share and discuss. I learned so much from everyone about a book I already admired a great deal when I arrived at the table.

    August 12, 2013

  • Cathy H.

    A friendly group, lots of interaction.

    1 · August 11, 2013

  • Jeannie

    pretty good

    August 11, 2013

  • Karen G.

    looking forward to seeing you all again

    July 22, 2013

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