Progress Book Club Questions:
1. Robert accuses Helen of deliberately refusing to look for him in all the years he was gone. How guilty is she of that accusation? What would she stand to gain by maintaining the status quo? What were the forces keeping her at home? And why did Robert stay away those fifteen years? Is he not responsible for causing the circumstances they find themselves in? Why or why not?
2. In many ways this is a story of the city mouse meeting the country mouse. Despite the obvious differences, in what ways are the two of them similar? Can you account for why they share the similarities that they do?
3. Although we aren’t privy to the information from the beginning of the book, Robert struggles with his own addictions— Robert is his father’s son. How much has his history of addiction determined the events of the story?
4. Helen decides to take the Power Authority matters into her own hands, with a small gesture of defiance. What other options were available to her? How might the ending have been different? How does her choice speak to the theme of the book? What messages would alternate endings have created?
5. The setting is fairly vague—a town without a place name, an unnamed capitol, a geography much like many parts of the northern hemisphere. What is the effect of using this “generic” landscape? What are its drawbacks? How might the choice to paint a broad picture speak to the theme?
6. Why is the novel called Progress? What are the ways in which Progress manifests in the book? You could argue that much of the book relies on a lack of progress. In what ways is that true? What’s the opposite of progress?
7. Did you prefer Helen or Robert best as a character? Why? Does that tell you something about yourself? About the characters?
8. Governments have a long history of land control. What are some instances of a government dictating the use of land to the people who inhabit it? What similarities or differences exist with the situation the characters face in Progress?
9. What would you have done if you were in Helen’s shoes from the start of this book? What choices would you have made if you were Robert fifteen years ago? How might your preferred choices affect your feelings for these characters?
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