Still Life with Plums Readers’ Guide
1. Marie Manilla is from West Virginia, but she also lived in Houston, Texas. How does Manilla use, and perhaps blend, both settings throughout this collection of short stories?
2. In a number of these stories, characters grapple with identity (cultural, regional, professional, familial, etc.). At times characters are running away from pejorative labels, gender-based expectations, class distinctions, etc. At other times they are running toward them. In which stories do you see this explored, and how so?
3. Manilla is often described as an urban-Appalachian writer. What do you think this means, and how do you see it play out in the collection?
4. How do the stories in this collection debunk or confirm the traditional hillbilly stereotype often associated with Appalachia?
5. Explore the Latino characters in the collection. What are their roles in the various stories?
6. Manilla's main characters are diverse: female, male, adult, child, West Virginian, Texan, Black Irish, Latino, etc. Even with the diversity, how are the characters alike?
7. Explore the various mothers or mother-figures in the collection. How are they alike? How are they different?
8. Explore the various fathers or father-figures in the collection. How are they alike? How are they different?
9. Compare and contrast various children in the collection. How and where do they live? What is their upbringing like? What kinds of futures do you project for them?
10. Manilla dabbles with magical realism in Still Life with Plums. In which stories do you see elements of magical realism, and how so?