Signal Fires
by Dani Shapiro
Discussion Questions:
1. How would Sarah and Theo's lives have been different if she had told the truth about the circumstances of the car wreck? What personality traits were revealed in Sarah and Theo during the novel's opening scene? How did these traits shape the outcomes of their lives?

2. How does the novel's oscillating timeline reflect the human experience of looking back on the past and making hopeful predictions about the future? What was it like to learn about the characters through moments that weren't linear? What cultural shifts were captured in those five decades? What remained the same throughout the years?

3. Ben's profession puts him at the center of moments of life and death. Sarah's career is anchored in storytelling, while Theo masters the art of preparing "comfort food with staying power" (207). How do these professions reflect essential aspects of Ben and his children?

4. The author writes lovingly of the Wilf house on Division Street. What can we discern about the Wilfs by observing their possessions, particularly when Sarah arrives to find the artifacts in a state of disorder? What is the significance of the fact that Theo spent many years estranged from the concept of home? What do the artifacts in your house indicate about the places you have called home?

5. Lost together, what makes Waldo and Mimi ideal companions during those dark hours? How does the experience distill what matters most to them, and to the family members who are searching for them?

6. As a young adult, Waldo invokes quantum physics to explain the mystical interconnectedness of all things (including humanity). To what extent is his connection to Ben determined by fate, versus the effort they make to sustain a bond over the years? Why is Waldo's interest in the heavens so difficult for Shenkman to appreciate? What is Alice's most enduring legacy for her son?

7. On page 128, Sarah thinks of lives as books divided into chapters, and she thinks about Peter's observation that second acts in screenplays should always have two major plot points. What are the major plot points and chapters of your life? Who do you consider to be the author of your life story?

8. Sarah lives in perpetual fear that Peter will find out about her infidelity. What is at the root of her masochism-experience in which she is abused and shamed? Why isn't she able to feel satisfied with Peter, "a simple guy, a nice guy who hasn't been able to catch a break" (page 131)? How do the characters in Signal Fires contend with guilt, even if the guilt is unwarranted?

9. Theo loves being an uncle to Syd and Livvie. As the girls approach the cusp of adulthood, the same age when he was reeling from tragedy, how is he able to make peace with the fact that it's impossible to predict what lies ahead?

10. In the final portraits of Shenkman and Ben, we see two aging men from the same neighborhood choose two very separate retirement paths. Shenkman lives in isolation in Florida. Ben enjoys the companionship of family on the west coast. What accounts for these different outcomes? How do their pandemic experiences compare to yours?

11. The novel's epigraph, from Carolyn Forche's poem "Mourning," calls for lighting signal fires "wherever you find yourselves." Who lights the signal fires in the novel? Who heeds them and takes action?

12. What are the fundamental reasons for Ben and Mimi's happiness in marriage, and for the sadness and frustration in the Shenkmans' marriage? What is the effect of the novel's closing line regarding the Wilfs, "You would hope that they know how lucky they are, how blessed"?

13. Discuss the portraits of parenting that are offered in the novel. What aspects of motherhood and fatherhood resonated with you? Do the children do a good job of becoming caregivers to their own parents later in life?

14. Family secrets have played a key role in many of Dani Shapiro's books. How does Signal Fires further expand upon the theme of unspoken truths and hidden turning points in her other novels and memoirs that you have read? Discussion questions by the publisher.

Book Club Talking Points:
There is plenty to keep the conversation going in this book. The Germans made life-changing choices - but did they really have a choice? Other themes include grief, acceptance, hardship, and prejudice - all thought-provoking.




PbrHome - totes, wine bags, pillows for the book lover
More Reading Suggestions
Popular Books
If you have a passion for reading and, like most, have no time to find the right book, browse the most popular books trending right now. They are all page-turners, and they all let you escape from reality.

Popular Book-  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles
By Madeline Miller
A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, THE SONG OF ACHILLES is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer's enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously...More


Popular Book-The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In this entrancing novel "that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all" (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the...More


Popular The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman's act of violence against her husband-and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive. Alicia Berenson's life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter...More


Popular Book- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Circe
By Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child-not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for ...More


Popular Book- The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
The Unhoneymooners
By Christina Lauren
AFor two sworn enemies, anything can happen during the Hawaiian trip of a lifetime-maybe even love-in this romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling authors of Roomies. Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky ...More


Visit Our Blog
Browse A Little
PBR book reviews and Reading guides for book clubs
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Pintrest Follow us on InstaGram
Visit out Etsy Shop
10 Books I Can't Stop Recommending
Bookish Gifts- Tote bags, Pillows and more