THE BOX CHILDREN

Sharon Wyse

“I can put my eyes just at the top of the wheat and see the world stretch out flat to the sky.” With this secret diary entry, a lonely girl on a Texas wheat farm sets her sights on the larger life she yearns for. Her only companions are the Box Children, five tiny dolls she endows with the lives they lost as her mother’s miscarried babies over the years. With no privacy at all, a brave and clear-eyed Lou Ann Campbell writes her way through a coming-of-age summer as her mother’s latest pregnancy brings increasing insanity to the season’s harvest.

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“I can put my eyes just at the top of the wheat and see the world stretch out flat to the sky.” With this secret diary entry, a lonely girl on a Texas wheat farm sets her sights on the larger life she yearns for. Her only companions are the Box Children, five tiny dolls she endows with the lives they lost as her mother’s miscarried babies over the years. With no privacy at all, a brave and clear-eyed Lou Ann Campbell writes her way through a coming-of-age summer as her mother’s latest pregnancy brings increasing insanity to the season’s harvest. Filled with honesty, humor, and romance, The Box Children will leave its mark on your heart.

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  • Riverhead Trade
  • Paperback
  • July 2003
  • 192 Pages
  • 9781573229968

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About Sharon Wyse

Sharon Wyse is a native Texan who spent her summers on a wheat farm until she was fifteen. The Box Children, her first novel, was a finalist for the 2003 Violet Crown Book Award. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Praise

“A trenchant debut novel that is equal parts heartache and hope.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Wry and heartfelt, this is a quietly impressive debut. Bottom Line: Open this Box.” —People

“This powerful story of adaptation and survival is recommended for all fiction collections.” —Library Journal

“The Box Children is an amazing tale that will speak to readers every­where.” —Mickey Pearlman, What to Read

Discussion Questions

One aspect of coming of age literature is a new awareness of self as separate from family. How does this dawn on Lou Ann? How did it dawn on you?

Lou Ann has a strong moral and ethical sense, distinct from the strict rules and taboos she is raised with. Is this common? Do you have memories of your own moral awareness as a child, separate from what your parents may have taught?

Miscarriages are a huge area of non-public grieving and great distress, loss, and shame. Loretta Campbell’s life has been misshapen by this experience. Has the situation changed since the 1960s? What’s differ­ent about suffering that is and isn’t talked about?

It could be said that Lou Ann belongs to Mother, and Will belongs to Daddy. There’s also the separation of women/inside and men/outside. What did each gender lose from this situation? How did Lou Ann try to break out of these barriers?

When Lou Ann reads magazines, it’s the ads she really takes in, that affect her understanding of what life offers. Is this true for children today? Grownups?

Were you worried about what Earl might do? Why wasn’t Lou Ann?

What makes Mother both likeable and hateable? What lets Daddy off the hook or condemns him?

Young people cobble together a universe that has what they need in it. What needs of Lou Ann’s are met by writing? By the Box Children? By Alva Higgins and Wyn Rue? By Earl and Lonnie? By her mother, father, and brother?

Lou Ann’s family looks “perfect” from the outside—in fact, other mothers send their babies to Loretta for care and training. Lou Ann describes situations that outsiders don’t see, until the trouble breaks out into the open. Is it harder for children if things fall apart of if they don’t?

The year was 1960, but in rural America much was the same as it had been for the past 30 years. How much of a time/reality/values schism still exists between rural and urban parts of the country?