For Kissing Games of the World
- Harris presents the story of how he came to be Christopher’s caretaker by explaining that Nate was far too irresponsible to be a father, especially after his wife Louisa died. However, when Nate speaks about it with Jamie, he claims that Harris didn’t want him to be a part of Christopher’s life and insisted on him staying far away. Why do you think Harris prevented Nate from being a part of Christopher’s life? What would be his motivation in doing so? Do you think this was something that Nate believed in order to walk away relatively guilt-free? Why?
- By Nate’s account, Harris was a horrible father to him, abandoning him and then ignoring him for much of his life. Why then would Nate and Louisa move in with Harris? Were the two men trying to reconcile or was it purely a necessity for the young couple? Why?
- After Louisa’s death, why would Nate leave Christopher to be raised by the father who abandoned him?
- Arguably, Jamie is the most grounded and responsible character, despite her hippie inclinations. However, toward the end of the novel Lucy says to her, “You’re the one who does what she wants. You have your art. And you don’t do anything you don’t want to. Anything that’s just for money. It’s me who has to worry about the mortgage and the bills. I’ve always had to take care of you, even from the time we were little and you were too shy to get to know anybody. It’s always been me, me, me!” (p. X) How does this argument shed new light on Jamie’s lifestyle? Did you believe Lucy? Why or why not? Did the argument make you see Jamie as irresponsible or rather as taking life as it comes and following her happiness? Do you think Lucy is jealous of Jamie? Why?
- Chief Cooksey is also antagonistic to Jamie. Do you think his anger toward her is as simple as him wanting to protect Harris from a “gold-digger”? Or does his viewpoint speak to something greater – some fundamental dislike of Jamie and her life choices?
- When Chief Cooksey tells Nate about how Harris’ body was found, why didn’t Nate confront Jamie? Why did he choose to believe that Jamie had lied to him?
- What did you make of Lainey Haney asking Jamie to rejoin the Campfire Kids as leader of the Jamboree? What does her inclusion of Jamie say about the town and the viewpoint of the younger generation – especially in comparison to the views of Chief Cooksey?
- There are so many character dichotomies throughout the text – Harris and Nate, Nate and Trace, Jamie and Nate, Jamie and Lucy, Jamie and Tina, Christopher and Arley. However, rather than the pairs being simple foils of each other, they seem to share both similarities and differences, and all the characters have both good and bad qualities. What do you make of all of these pairings? What are the similarities and differences in each of the pairs?
- Describe the moment where Nate proved that he could be and wanted to be not only a provider for but a parent to Christopher. How did he show that he could be a good partner for Jamie? When was that turning point?
- Toward the end of the novel, both Nate’s and Jamie’s lives fall apart. After arguing with her sister, Jamie is prompted to leave Lucy’s house and become temporarily homeless, first camping by the pond and then squatting in the abandoned house. Meanwhile, overwhelmed with caring for Christopher and trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with Tina, Nate loses his job. What is revealed in their individual declines?
- In this novel, even the house is a character. How do Harris’ attempts to repair it, Nate’s tearing it apart, and Jamie’s squatting in it represent aspects of each person’s character?
- This novel seems to put forth the idea that people can change. Do you think that this is true? Who in the novel most evolves? What are the benefits or drawbacks of the characters’ evolutions?
- After Christopher breaks his arm in the whip line, Chief Cooksey tells Nate, “’I’ve been thinking. This Jamie…well, what’s she gonna do? She’s got a sick boy, lots to think about.’ He stared off into space. ‘Life or death all the damn time. She had to do what she did. Lemme just say, if you want to blame her for this, it’s probably gonna end up being me you should blame.’” What led Cooksey to have this change of heart about Jamie? What has he learned?
- The novel also speaks to the idea of family. What do you think constitutes a family? Were Harris and Jamie a family? Are Nate and Jamie?
- As Denise Morgan outlines it, Kissing Games are the things in life one doesn’t take seriously. Given that definition, what do you think is the significance of the book’s title?