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Thank You for All Things
by Sandra Kring

Published: 2008-09-30
Mass Market Paperback : 448 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
At twelve, Lucy Marie McGowan already knows she’ll be a psychologist when she grows up. And her quirky and conflicted family provides plenty of opportunity for her to practice her calling. Now Lucy, her “profoundly gifted” twin brother, Milo, her commitment-phobic mother, and her New Age ...
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At twelve, Lucy Marie McGowan already knows she’ll be a psychologist when she grows up. And her quirky and conflicted family provides plenty of opportunity for her to practice her calling. Now Lucy, her “profoundly gifted” twin brother, Milo, her commitment-phobic mother, and her New Age grandmother are leaving Chicago for Timber Falls, Wisconsin, to care for her dying grandfather—a complex and difficult man whose failure as a husband and father still painfully echoes down through the years. Lucy believes her time in the rural town where the McGowan story began will provide a key piece to the puzzle of her family’s broken past, and perhaps even reveal the truth about her own missing father. But what she discovers is so much more—a lesson about the paradoxes of love and the grace of forgiveness that the adults around her will need help in remembering if their family is ever to find peace and embrace the future. By turns heart-wrenching and heart-mending, Thank You for All Things is a powerful and poignant novel by a brilliant storyteller who illustrates that when it comes to matters of family and love, often it is the innocent who force others to confront their darkest secrets.

Editorial Review

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That skinny eleven-year-old boy sitting across the table from me with the wispy dishwater-blond hair and glasses, that’s my twin brother, Milo, short for Myles. He’s got his long nose pointed down where his physics books and sheets scribbled with mathematical equations are neatly lined up at 180-degree angles on his end of the table. This is where Milo is likely to stay until bedtime (even though Mom says we have to study only until four o’clock), mumbling to himself and moving his face closer and closer to his work and getting more and more fidgety, until he’s reaching for his inhaler. Then Mom makes him stop for the day and go to bed. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. How does the title, Thank You for All Things, apply to various characters in the novel? Which characters have the most gratitude? Who seems to have little to be thankful for but manages to feel appreciative nonetheless? How are gratitude and forgiveness linked?
2. What was the effect of reading the storyline through Lucy’s eyes? How would it have been different if Milo had done the narrating?
3. Are family secrets always damaging? Did Milo and Lucy benefit from having the truth kept from them? Who else was Tess protecting by remaining silent about her past?
4. In chapter twelve, Marie says that going home helps her remember who she is. Lucy enjoys hearing this. What does the “homecoming” to Wisconsin teach her about who she is? What do her fantasies of her father, including the theory that Scott Hamilton is her dad, indicate about her perception of herself?
5. Some of the novel’s most important revelations are reported through journal entries. What did Tess communicate to herself when writing about her life? Why was it difficult for her to be open with her family about her emotional pain?
6. What kept Tess from feeling completely comfortable with Peter? Why was she hesitant to trust him?
7. What cycles of abuse occurred in the McGowan family? How did others respond to the damage inflicted by it? What gave Oma/Lillian the strength to return to Wisconsin?
8. What memories does Tess revive by seeing Mitzi? How does Mitzi’s experience with pregnancy affect her role in Tess’s life? Discuss one of your own lifelong friendships and the ways that friendship has changed over time.
9. What fueled the rage and shame that made Tess’s father so dangerous? How did dementia transform him? Which aspects of his life and personality endured despite dementia?
10. Milo and Lucy possess exceptional brain power. Are they equally advanced in matters of the heart? What benefits and problems does their mental prowess bring to their childhood?
11. How does Tess’s relationship with Clay compare to Milo and Lucy’s? What determines whether siblings will remain close or become estranged?
12. How did you react to the revelations about Howard? What had you predicted for the truth about Lucy and Milo’s father?
13. Discuss the homecomings that have made a significant impact on your life.
14. Sandra Kring grew up in an abusive home and has run support groups and workshops for adult survivors of trauma. What skills and sensitivities does her past bring to her life as a fiction writer, in this book as well as her previous novels, Carry Me Home and The Book of Bright Ideas?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Dear Reader,

I'm not sure what it is that compels people to write stories, but I am convinced that writers are born, not made.

We had two books in our home when I was a child. One was a book on childhood illnesses, and the second was an encyclopedia, L-N, given by the local grocery store if you spent twenty dollars or more. I didn't care for either book and had no idea that other kinds of books existed-fiction books, books that could transport you into other times, other lives, other minds. And though I had not yet learned to print or spell, I still felt compelled to write. With no paper or writing implements at my disposal, I carried sticks into my room and scribbled on my unfinished walls. I was convinced that hundreds of years later, some advanced beings would buy the house, tear down the walls, and with eyes and minds advanced far beyond ours, use their ability to see invisible ink and to decipher the meaning soaked into a child's scribbles, to read the stories and secrets I'd left there.

Years passed before I discovered the magic of fiction, and even more years passed before I dared to admit that I had a dream to become a published novelist. Granted, there was nothing to prove to me that I could do it if I tried. I'd always been a poor student, more involved with my inner world than the facts written on the chalkboard. I skipped college, married at seventeen, became a mother at eighteen, and spent years living in an isolated town in the northwoods of Wisconsin, population 249. What possibly made me believe that I could one day prop my book alongside the hundreds of books that now filled my book shelves? Nothing, it seemed, but a resoluteness that said that if I practiced long enough, and tried hard enough, I could dream my dream true.

The night before I began Carry Me Home, I was looking through the photographs my recently deceased father had taken while serving in the Pacific during WWII. The images of the dead soldiers strung across the battlefield, as well as the images of my father standing with his arms linked across the shoulders of two young men he had identified simply as "my buddies," haunted me after I turned in that night. At that time, it seemed likely that we were going to war in Iraq, and as a mother of a teenage boy and an aunt to draftable nephews,

I felt anxious. What, I wondered, would it be like to send your beloved son, husband, or boyfriend off to war, and what would it be like for all of you once they returned?

The next morning, I woke before dawn with this question in mind and began writing. A mother, father, and family hero who would go off to war emerged. Five minutes later, the unlikely voice of Earl "Earwig" Gunderman spoke, and one paragraph into the book, I knew that this was the novel that would give me my dream.

People often ask me how I managed to write from the point of view of a brain-damaged teenaged boy. I'm not quite sure, except to say that when I strip away all I know about human nature, psychology, and logic, Earwig's questions about life, death, religion, war, prejudice, and love are my own. I guess this is why I love writing so much. It is my chance to wonder out loud.

So welcome to my world, oh intelligent being. I hope you enjoy my scribblings.

My best,

Sandra Kring

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Thank You Sandra Kring"by FriendshipSisters (see profile) 04/11/11

Thank you for all things, a novel about love, loss, abuse and forgiveness. Sandra Kring is a great writer that brings the characters to life and each story seems to reveal a bit of ourselves. Times throughout... (read more)

  "great book"by miner (see profile) 02/08/09

A great story.

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