Lindsay Lee Johnson
About the book:
It’s 1959 and Winnie’s family is moving t rural Minnesota where because of her dad’s new job will require the family to live on the grounds of a mental institution. Winnie is forced to leave her special friends and her exciting life in Chicago for this small world where everything seems cruel and lonely. Forced to reevaluate the secrets she carries and her view of the world, Winnie learns to see everything, even her parents and old friends, in the light of truth.
About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions and projects appropriate for book clubs, literature circles, and classroom discussions. It is intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of this novel which include family expectations and relationships, self-identity, secrets, friendship, and isolation.
1. How much research did you have to do to bring Winona’s story to life?
2. Do you start with a character, setting or plot? How do you build your story?
3. Who is your favorite character in the story? Why?
4. How was writing your 2nd book different from your first? What have you learned about your writing process?
5. What can your fans look forward to next?
What does it mean to be a world apart? Have you ever felt separate from those around you?
1. Why do the Mays move to Minnesota? Describe The Bridgewater State Hospital.
2. Why do people object to Winnie’s friendship with Justice?
3. Compare Winnie’s life before moving to her life in Minnesota.
4. Who are the Starlings? Why do they matter to Winnie?
5. How does Winnie change by the end of the novel?
1. Winnie’s parents won’t tell her why they need to suddenly move to Minnesota. It has something to do with his hands. Her mom declares that their explanation is “true enough.” Would this explanation satisfy you? After learning the reason for his dismissal do you think they were right in keeping this secret?
2. Describe what Winnie sees on her tour of the facility. What is wrong with most of the residents? Would people with these types of issues still be in institutions today? Why or why not? Why do you think they were placed there? Why are there so many rumors about the facility?
3. How is Winnie treated at her new school? Do you think kids are crueler back in 1959? Why are they being so mean? Is Winnie doing anything to exacerbate it? How would you respond to their teasing?
4. What was Winnie’s life like in Chicago? What is her plan to get back to it? Why doesn’t it work? To whom does she appeal? What did Pam mean in her letter, It’s interesting to see how people’s lives turn out just the way they’re supposed to, isn’t it?” Were the Starlings true friends? Why or why not? How does Winona’s view of friendship change?
5. Winnie and Janet Tyler both have secrets. What are they? Why are they keeping them? In the end, what do both girls do about their secrets? Is there ever a good reason to keep a secret? Do you think Janet will ever be forthcoming at school about Timmy?
6. At first, Winnie is understandably repulsed by what she sees in the institution. How does her opinion change over the course of the novel? Which residents does she learn from and what do they teach her?
7. Why is there resistance to Winnie becoming friends with Justice Goodwater? What does Winnie mean by “For the first time I realize that our friendship probably costs Justice something, too.” (p.77) What does Justice teach Winnie about growing up?
8. Why does Winnie’s mom leave? Where does she go? How would you feel if you were left in her situation? How does Winnie find out the truth?
9. Where is Justice’s mother? How did she end up there? What does it show about the treatment of the Native Americans during that time?
10. At first Winnie relies on her camera to frame her ideas. In the end she decides to abandon this practice. Why? How has she changed? What do you think changed her most by the end of the book? Use examples to support your ideas. In the end, is she a better person for having gone through this whole experience?
Write a letter and a response between Winona and Justice after the close of the novel. What do you think has happened to each of them? Will they remain friends?
Write a letter from Winona to Pam after the close of the novel. What would she tell her now?
Create an abstract painting through one of the character’s eyes from Worlds Apart. In a brief journal explain why you chose the colors and forms that you did to represent this character.
Research the history of mental illness and/or mental retardation. How have people with disabilities been treated over the ages? What is their care like now? How can we improve the lives of those who live with mental illness or disability?
In pairs, act out a scene from the story. Or, create a new scene that was cut from the book but which makes sense within its timeline.