The Pipe Dreamers: Reading Guide and Discussion Points

Photo courtesy of Gail Henderson and the Columbus Newcomers Book Club.

Photo courtesy of Gail Henderson and the Columbus Newcomers Book Club.

Please contact Sandra if you'd like to arrange a presentation for your book club.

  1. What was your view of the 1960s before reading THE PIPE DREAMERS? What were your perceptions afterwards? Did the novel change your opinion of the era? If you'd lived through the '60s were your memories positive or unpleasant? Or if your parents talked about the '60s what were your impressions? How did these affect the way in which you approached the book?
  2. At the beginning of the story, Julia is a blank slate who seems to vacillate between the values of her parents and those of her friends. How did she grow and develop throughout the book? Do you think the decisions she made were wise? How do you think her past colored her adult life and her relationship with her husband and children?
  3. Morality plays a large part in THE PIPE DREAMERS. Relationships with parents, sex, drugs, and even honesty among friends are sorely tested. How do you think characters such as Valerie and Win handled the various dichotomies thrown in their paths? Do you feel their actions were honorable? And, other than the obvious physical attraction to Win, do you think his moral vacillation was part of Julia's fascination with him? How have the freedoms resulting from such issues affected our lives today?
  4. On the opposite side of social coin were two other characters, Louis Wexler and deputy sheriff Cal Adams. Why do you think Louie was so drawn to the protest movement? Mightn't it have been healthier for this Vietnam vet to put the past behind him and get on with his life? Or not even mention that he'd been there at all and blend in with the rest of the students? And what about Deputy Adams? He's about the same age as the students, but from a different world. Why do think he gets such pleasure from misusing his authority as a policeman?
  5. In a sense THE PIPE DREAMERS has two endings. The first occurs in 1970 during the final confrontation between the protesters and the Administration. Did you find it realistic? Were you surprised by the outcome? The second takes place in London. What were your feelings regarding the final scene? Had Julia and Win gotten married do you think they would have been happy? Do you think she will ever recover from what happened with Win and Valerie and that the memories will continue to haunt her?
  6. There seems to be a dearth of novels about the '60s and the Vietnam protest movement, unlike the Vietnam war which has been extensively covered in print and in the movies. (Interestingly enough, during the years when the protests were happening, there was a great deal of film and literature devoted to them, but very little afterwards. Regarding Vietnam, the literature started out as being very negative and then became more supportive, the most recent example of such romantic revisionism being the movie "We Were Soldiers") Why do you think this has occurred? Are people ashamed of their actions and therefore reluctant to revisit that time? Do you think the events of September 11th had an impact on how people view Vietnam today?
  7. Compare and contrast THE PIPE DREAMERS to other books about the Vietnam era. Does it fall into an easily definable category? Do you think the author leaves room for a sequel or should it stand on its own?