THE ROAD, AND NOTHING MORE READING GUIDE
J. L. Bautista was born in California and lives and travels between there and Madrid, Spain. Fiestas, the writer's first published book, is drawn primarily from the recollections and experiences of family and friends before, during, and after the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939; it was the winner of the 2005 George Garrett Prize in Fiction. The author's second book will be published in the fall of 2012, a novel entitled The Road, and Nothing More, which also has a Spanish theme, but more importantly is about how people survive in circumstances that ill-favor humanity, love, and beauty.
Past publications include short fiction, poetry, and essays. Work as a journalist and researcher has been all-important to the writing. Beyond the history of 20th century Spain and its citizens, the most important theme in the writing concerns the lives of marginalized peoples in modern society. J. L. Bautista has yet to doubt that life is worth what it does to us.
SUMMARY OF THE BOOK:
Set in the narrow streets of a historic Madrid neighborhood between 1937 and the 1950s, The Road, and Nothing More centers on struggling, interrelated families during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. The current of life is as primal as it gets; it ebbs and flows during privations and rare hopeful moments in times usually described abstractly as a conflict between irreconcilable ideologies. These characters don't have the means to be idealists, but tough, resilient and dignified, they appraise their situations and adapt in order to eat and to stay alive. The reader will care about them to the last page, as they fight to maintain their dignity and their commitment to one another.
1. The Spanish Civil War is the backdrop for this story. Have you experienced a time in history that affected you and the people around you as much as the war in Spain affected the characters in this book?
2. Among the many qualities possessed by Señora Rosa, the main character in The Road, and Nothing More, that allow her to survive the war and do well later in her life, are great stubbornness, loyalty, natural suspicion and the ability to work hard. What other qualities do you see in Sra. Rosa? Do any of her ways seem more important to her survival and success than the others? Do you share any of these traits or do you have friends or family members who do?
3. One of the most compelling parts of the novel is the loss and recovery of Rosa-Laura during the war. The impact of great historical events on children can be very intense. Did you expect Rosa-Laura to survive and reappear in the narrative? Have you experienced events like the war in Spain that had an impact on your own childhood or that of people around you?
4. The city of Madrid functions almost as a character in The Road, and Nothing More. Do you also know Madrid or is there a city in your past (or present) that has a similar importance in your own life?
5. Milli and Rosa-Laura are very different, despite being brought up under similar circumstances. What accounts for their differences? How do you feel about Sra. Rosa and Rogelio's style of being parents? Are there people in your life who you defend even though they sometimes make bad choices?
6. Dr. Contreras is an interesting character who plays an important role in the lives of Sra. Rosa, Rosa-Laura and Milli. He becomes very close with Sra. Rosa, though he is her employer and comes from a different social class. His own life and personal choices are also much affected by the times he lives in. How did you feel about Dr. Contreras? Do you have friends among many classes? Do you think class or economic status is more or less important these days?
7. Much of this novel takes place in the 30s but the story takes us all the way to the 80s. The changes that occur in those decades in the novel, and in the real world, are tremendous. Sra. Rosa finds it hard to keep up with all of these changes. For example, she dislikes Rosa-Laura's new haircut. What are some of the biggest changes that have happened in your own lifetime? Are there changes you feel unable or unwilling to keep up with?
This reading group guide is provided by Small Press Distribution to Engage as You Age as part of the "I Remember Project" to support reading groups for seniors in Marin Country. SPD's "I Remember Project" is generously supported by the Marin Community Foundation.