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Buzz Book Club: The Life Before Her Eyes, Section Two

Welcome back Buzz Book Club readers! Are you addicted and intrigued yet by The Life Before Her Eyes? I have to admit I'm having a hard time putting this one down, and though I'm willing myself not to flip ahead, I'm really curious how this will all play out. I also am trying to just savor the haunting and gorgeous images Kasischke brings to life through her poetic prose.

If you're new to the Book Club, this is how it goes: every week I'll suggest chapters to complete by the next post (which, in this case, will go up every Friday in April). In these weekly Book Club posts, I'll posit a few questions to prompt discussion in the comments section.

Of course, you are always welcome to read beyond the weekly chapters, but please don't spoil anything in the comments! This is particularly important with this book because each section reveals more about what I'm assuming is a surprise ending. After the jump you'll find some questions that struck me as I read this section.

The next assignment: read from the start of Part Three to the end of the chapter titled "Glare." We'll chat about this third section a week from today, Friday, April 18.

To discuss the second section of The Life Before Her Eyes (in which we read to the end of the chapter titled "Blood"),


  1. Starting first with the end of the chapter: The image of Diana eating the raw hamburger, savoring its "smooth as pudding, as smooth as ice cream" texture, gave me chills. What do you make of that?
  2. In this section, we learned that, in contrast to the perfect life Diana lives now, her high school experience was much rockier: an abortion, naked photos, getting high before ballet. There are a couple of times where Kasischke juxtaposes a happy high school image right next to a dark one: comparing a scent to "a funeral parlor or a prom dance," for example, or describing her prom corsage as "a pin stabbed just above her heart." What do you think accounts for the differences between Young Diana and Diana now?
  3. This chapter also introduced a strong element of magical realism, with the strange "slut" letter, the suddenly-made bed, the teenagers swimming (or not) in the neighbors' pool. How are you separating fact from fiction? Are you even trying to?
  4. Speaking of the pool, the girl Diana is watching sounds like she is very physically similar to teenage-Diana. She also sees a blonde little girl eating ice cream with her father. It's almost as if she is seeing different versions of herself. Why do think this is — and how does it factor into your overall theory of what's happening to Diana?
Join The Conversation
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 9 years
I just finished this book. Everyone needs to finish it soon because I'm super confused! This past/present/reality crap played with my mind.
nery85 nery85 9 years
adw-i too find it hard to understand the differences in the now and the. also with the referance of the book from 2000.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
adw--I like your observation about past and present converging simultaneously. Time does seem to get intermingled. I'm also intrigued by the use of "one of the girls" in some of these "past" sections. Again, at times details seem to blur in those retellings. Interesting technique, for sure.
adw7984 adw7984 9 years
Linda McP....I had a hard time with the past and present sections. Sometimes I thought they were Diana and Maureen and then other times I thought maybe they were occurring simultaneously with Diana's current life. It was also confusing because it seems like the past sections took place recently...2000 or so. I'm not really sure, but that confused me a little.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
The image of eating raw hamburger was, indeed, chilling. Yet, it does seem to fit with Diana's impulsiveness. I cringed most at the "smoothness of flesh" image. Kasischke's imagery is haunting. Since she's juxtaposing present and past, I wonder if she was tying this harsh image to the more pleasant one of eating of ice cream that comes on p. 119. In both instances, Diana has "eaten all of it" and "before long it's gone." As 40 year old Diana recalls her previous life, she seems to marvel at how much she has been able to put the past behind and grow into the "perfect" life that she has now. Yet, the images of that past life seem to haunt her; sometimes she seems to miss that "old" Diana, the one who had spunk, who acted on impulse. Her life now seems scripted, two dimensional, lacking in color (she draws only in black and white and shades of gray). Diana's life may not be as perfect as she imagines it to be--or wants us to believe. I'm fascinated by Kasischke's use of present tense to describe the (apparent) past events and past tense to describe the (apparent) present. Anyone have any thoughts about that? I, too, am wondering about the emotional roller coaster that Diana seems to be on. Is she still struggling with her emotions about the events that happened in the girls' bathroom some 20 years ago? Does she feel guilt? remorse? It is a struggle to figure out what is real and what is imagined. Past and present are so intertwined that it's hard for Diana--and for us--to separate the true from the imagined. When she sees the teenager in the pool, the little girl on the bench, she seems to be transported back to her own life and to reconstruct the past events--perhaps as they were, perhaps as she imagines them to have been. She's certainly not a credible narrator, yet I'm fascinated by her story. I'm just giving in and allowing Kasischke to take me on the journey. I, too, am finding it hard to put the book down; I love the imagery and just know there's going to be a surprise. But, I promise myself that I will not skip to the end. Great choice, Buzz!
emalove emalove 9 years
I tried to buy this book at Borders over the weekend, but it wasn't in stock :( I ordered it, so hopefully, it will be here any day now. I can't wait to join in on the discussion.
adw7984 adw7984 9 years
1.) Honestly, that part freaked me out! I honestly thought she might be pregnant; I have never been pregnant so I don’t know what people might be craving during this time. Also, on page 109 when Emma got into the car and Diana had the “crawling sensation similar to the one she’s had when she was pregnant”. I know that Kasischke was just using it to connect the feeling she had now with that feeling of being pregnant, but I kind of though there might be something more to that. But the eating raw meat thing grossed me out! 2.) When I was reading the young Diana sections I was amazed at how she had turned her life around. It seems as if her decision in the beginning has changed her life and she knew that she had to live a respectable life. She was given a “reprieve” I guess you could say. Also, being a mother probably changed her into a better person. It seemed she was selfish in high school but having a child makes you put someone ahead of yourself, which is what Diana is doing. 3.) These magical things that are happening to Diana are hard to process. It is hard to know whether they are really happening or maybe she is imagining them. Is she just seeing what she wants to see? Does she have some sort of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (twenty years later)? It is hard to say what is happening here. 4.) I honestly thought the girl in the pool was maybe Diana having a flashback because it seemed like something she would do in high school. I think her anger and annoyance she felt could have been jealousy. Maybe she is unhappy in her “perfect” life and misses the days when she was carefree and young. She does talk about aging a lot and what it means to be middle age….this could have something to do with it.
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