13 March 2017

GS Reads: The Strays Discussion

The Strays by Emily Bitto

Ah, finally! I have been trying to sit down and write this wrap-up and discussion and have been so busy with traveling for work and exhausted that I have failed. I'm sorry it is so late!  On the bright side, you should all be done with The Strays by Emily Bitto now so there won't be any spoilers :P

First I just want to say that I loved this book. It was an easy read and the story was different from any books I've read lately which was refreshing. Emily Bitto made me feel as though I was the imaginary friend that followed Lily and Eva around. I pictured myself at the Trenthams' home vividly and was enthralled by their life, much in the way I imagine Lily was.

See below for the discussion questions. I put my answers below but would love to hear your thoughts and answers to any of the questions too in the comments below!


  1. Lily is infatuated by Eva and her family. They represented in many ways the opposite lifestyle and family structure than Lily herself had at home. Did you find this fascination realistic and can you remember a time in childhood where you felt similarly? 
  2. Were you surprised about the relationship that developed between Jerome and Eva? Or between Jerome and Heloise?
  3. Heloise plays with fire in a moment that at the time seems spurred by concern and anger for her sister, however we later learn that Heloise runs away with Jerome too. Does this change how you see the fire incident? How so?
  4. As Lily and Eva grow up into teenagers they start to grow apart despite being around each other so often. It's amongst this drift that Lily is forced to make a decision to tell the Trenthams or not about Lily and Jerome''s plan to escape. How do you think this distance shaped her decision?
  5. The ending of the book paints a scene with Lily watching and eavesdropping on her daughter, Lucinda, and her friend Hannah, as adults sharing thoughts and dreams and challenges. Why do you think the author chose to end the book this way?

My Answers:

  1. I don't think I ever experienced a fascination with one of my friends or their family in the way that Lily does, however I can remember how most of my friends had older sisters, whereas I only had brothers and I was mesmerized by them. I thought they were incredibly cool, never bossy like my friends felt, and I always wanted them to like me, to feel like I could hang out with them. 
  2. The Trenthams' bohemian and avant-garde lifestyle was very open and even a bit erotic. I think I was surprised that it happened so soon for Eva but the foundation was set for a relationship to develop between her and Jerome. However I was shocked about Heloise. I did not see that coming at all.
  3. When I read about the fire that Heloise sets I believed she was concerned for and angry at her sister. I believed she caught Eva escaping one night to run off with Jerome and being younger perhaps she didn't understand everything she was seeing and was angry and confused and didn't know how else to bring attention to it. But thinking back on the incident I feel very differently. I don't think she was mad at Eva. i think she was mad at Jerome. She felt betrayed by him and jealous of her sister. I think it was a lovers quarrel gone terribly wrong and up in flames, literally. 
  4. Eva and Lily were caught in the difficult throes of puberty and friendship. Unfortunately we all hit it at different times and experience it differently. It was clear that Eva was exploring her sexuality and boundaries while Lily was still content to play with Heloise and was scared to push the limits. This difference scared Lily. For the first time they were not in sync and Lily didn't feel comfortable pretending to be just like Eva. I think this fear of losing Eva, of their friendship, of the empowerment Lily feels by being Eva's friend is all on the brink of disappearing and Lily does not want to do anything to jeopardize the friendship she is holding onto. These motivators clearly influence Lily's decision to not tell Helena or Evan about Eva's plans to run away with Jerome. Its pretty simple, she doesn't want to be the rat that tells on Eva and make Eva hate her, so she decides to cling onto her friend's trust and keep their secret safe. Reading this from an adult perspective, you can't help but cringe at the poor decision but think back to being a kid and her decision makes more sense. It's a choice a child would make.
  5. The ending is the friendship that Lily wishes she has with Eva. She never was able to experience the adult version of their fierce friendship yet Lily is able to see this version play out for her daughter. At the same time though, I think Lily has come to peace with the way things ended between her and Eva and the Threnthams. She is able to be happy for Lucinda and has found a place for herself amongst her daughter's friendship with Hannah. I think this ending provides a sense of closure that Lily is finally happy with her life, however ordinary it may be.


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