What makes a “good mom”? Do children need structure and routine or freedom and latitude? Does a mother have a right to act on her impulses? These are some often-unnerving questions that arise when delving into Dave Eggers latest novel, Heroes of the Frontier. The story centers on a mother of two young children who, after her ex intends to remarry and she loses her dental practice, abandons her suburban Ohio home life for a directionless journey through Alaska in an R.V.
Needless to say, there is plenty of proper book club discussion fodder on a topic — parenting — that we know well.
- Is Josie a good mom? She continues to put her children at risk and expose them to danger. But they seem to survive and maybe even thrive?
- Josie’s childhood seemed bizarre and chaotic. Why would she want the same for her children? Why did she reject the normalcy of suburban life in Ohio?
- Structure vs. freedom. Josie chooses to give up on structure, security and stability in favor of letting her kids run free and essentially have zero routine – which is better for kids?
- She puts a lot of responsibility and burden on her 8-year old son, especially to look after his younger (and possibly troubled) sister. Is this unfair and potentially damaging?
- There is a clear “sh*t” theme running through the storyline – is this a reflection of how she sees her life? What about the wildfires that seem to follow them? And outrunning a storm?
- And what is the symbolism of Josie imagining a bottle smashing in her face represent?
- Is this “journey” a purely selfish act on her part? A reaction to her ex-husband remarrying? And is it ok for a mother to act on her own impulses?
- Josie is paranoid throughout most of the trip that Carl, her ex, and even the police, are after her. In the end, she realizes no one is bothered that she has left. Does this embolden her? Or is it depressing? And does she let Carl off the the hook too easily for being a nonexistent father?
- The author of this book, Dave Eggers is obviously a man. Can a man authentically capture or understand the bond between a mother and her children?
- What do you think happens the day after they find the cabin in the storm? And do you think Josie and her children are truly “heroes of the frontier”?