The End of the Point – Discussion Questions Helen and Charlie

It’s 1960 and Helen is overwhelmed with children, her studies at Columbia, and therapy.
What do you think of Dr. Hoffman’s ultimatum that Helen either terminate her pregnancy or terminate therapy?
Given the fragility of Dossy why does Helen reach out to her?

It is during this section of the novel that we get a sense of where Charlie is headed: he loves Ashaunt, at ten he’s injured by Close-up mid section of woman holding seedlingattempting to make gunpowder bombs from old shotgun shells. Is what occurs later inevitable? What do you think Graver is trying to convey via Charlie’s character?

It’s time to move on to our next selection so I’m going to have to wrap up the discussion of The End of the Point.  I know that I’ve barely tapped the depths of the book. Even though I’m moving on feel free to post a comment or question.  I would be happy to stay on Ashaunt longer.

I do see that so many are lurking, but I would love to read your thoughts on any of the topics that I’ve covered.

The End of the Point – Helen

Fashionable woman in New York City, 1949 (1)

Courtesy of Vintage Everyday

I know that I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing Bea, but now it is time to talk about Helen. Her presence in the novel blossoms in the second part of the book “Plants and Their Children 1947-1961.” At this point the novel becomes epistolary.

Graver seems to quickly elapse time within this section. The time between 1947-1961 transports us from Helen’s visit to Charlies’s grave in 1947 to the birth of Percy.  We have learned that the girls have grown.  Helen is attending school, and is in analysis.  Why do you think Graver chose to cover such a long period of time in this manner?

A really good question from BookBrowse (there are more questions there if you would like to experience them) – Helen, who comes of age in the 1940’s and 50’s, is torn between a number of ambitions and drives. How do the circumstances she was born into inform who she is? What do you view as her strengths and weaknesses as a sister, wife, intellectual, and mother?

Next we’ll discuss “Trespass 1970.”

The End of the Point – Regret


A box made out of shells is empty unless you fill it.

So much of what goes on in the novel is about choice or lack thereof.  When we end the first section that takes place in 1942 Bea comes to the realization that she has had the luxury of making her first choice – to not marry Smitty.

“…staying at home because her mother was ill and needed nursing; coming to America because her mother had died; staying in  America because-why?  A tightly wrapped bundle that mewed like a cat.” “All of this was true, though none of it quite hers.  That summer, finally: a choice.”

Juxtapose Bea’s decision to remain with the Porter family and not marry Smitty with the decision that Charlie makes to run off and marry? What drives them to make their decision?

In the caption of the picture above I made the observation about the empty box.  Do you think that Bea has lost her chance to fill her life, or do you think she’s satisfied with the choices that she’s made along the way?  Given the pull of outside influences can any of us truly be satisfied?

Elizabeth Graver has kept us in 1942 during this section, but has chosen to end with Janie’s visit  to Scotland.  Why do you think Graver has ended this way?

During the visit Janie recalls that Bea refused the proposal because Janie forbid it.  Whose memory do you believe.


9558933I love Cape Cod unfortunately this year I won’t be able to get there so why not drag you all along as I visit one of my favorite places via one of my favorite novels.

We have left the West Coast and traveled over 2500 miles and have landed in a fictional jut of land near Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Yet again I’ve chosen a novel where sense of place is so important.  In Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Seattle was a crucial aspect of the plot. One might argue that Semple could have placed Bernadette anywhere and she might have cracked regardless of place, but I get the sense that the peculiarities of Seattle (weather, population, Microsoft, proximity to Canada, etc.) were instrumental in pushing our beloved Bernadette over the proverbial Blackberry bush overrun cliff.

I said in my earlier review “It’s the land that draws the family back year after year,

summer after summer.  It’s the land that holds them together, shelters them, comforts and holds them.  A land that will change over time with hurricanes,  wars, and impending development – changes that take place outside of the Porter’s control.”

Do you agree? Does Ashaunt Point play a vital role in the story?  Why or why not?

In an interview with BookBrowse Elizabeth Graver discusses in length about the setting and why she chose Buzzards Bay.

“Over they ears, as the story took shape, I spent a part of every summer and many fall and spring weekends at the real place that my fictional place grew out of. Often,while I was there, I wrote. I walked the paths, navigated the rocks to swim in the ocean and began to feel that the land—and the one-room cabin my husband had built on it—was a kind of home to me—not(as it is to my husband and our daughters) a first home, but a surrogate second home, at once alluring and vexed. I watched my children learn to walk, swim and ve in nature there, the place a great gift for them but also a complicated privilege and even a danger—for how fully it can shelter and how much it can exclude. I used this real place as a way to begin to imagine my fictional Ashaunt Point.”

Is there a place that evokes this feeling for you?  


“Generations of my husband’s immediate and extended family have spent summers at this place, the land getting increasingly divided up, as smaller cabins were built behind bigger houses and property changed hands or was sold off. During WWII, part of the peninsula was taken over by the army, which established a Harbor Entrance Control Post where it stationed 200 troops.  Later, new property owners, “outsiders,”bought land and built houses with heat and swimming pools.  What used to be fields kept low by sheep have grown into thickets.”

Even if there is no “special place” that you visit on vacation if you live on  Long Island you may be noticing a shrinking of what make “the Island” special – huge houses are being constructed on land that was set aside for much smaller homes, the “urbanization” of a suburban community.  Does this resonate with you?  

Keep reading and please share your thoughts with all of us.


I hope

I do hope that you’ve all picked up a copy of The End of the Point and have begun your journey to Ashaunt Point.  While you are beginning your immersion into the lives of the Porter family I thought you might like to hear a bit from Elizabeth Graver.

I have pinned an interview from Bookaholic with Elizabeth Graver.  Visit our Pinterest account for the interview and much more.

Listen to the interview on WNYC Leonard Lopate Show.

Watch the interview on Furious Fiction.

Something About Elizabeth Graver

Elizabeth Graver-Wf-M.Music-MACD-12-004,#205From the author’s website:

Elizabeth Graver’s fourth novel, The End of the Point, was long-listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Fiction  and selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.  Her other novels  are AwakeThe Honey Thief,and Unravelling. Her story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized inBest American Short Stories(1991, 2001); Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards (1994, 1996, 2001), The Pushcart Prize Anthology (2001), and Best American Essays (1998).  She teaches at Boston College and is at work on a new project that draws on the Sephardic Jewish history of her family.

For more information visit Jericho Public Library . The library subscribes to a database “Literature Resource Center.” This is a complete literature reference database rich in biographical, bibliographical and critical content on literary figures from all time periods writing in such genres as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, history, journalism and more.

 You can access this database via the Jericho Public Library website. Visit, click on the “Databases” tab and then click on “Adults.”  You can find the database either on the A-Z listing or click on the link for BiographyYou will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver

The End of the Point - July 2014

The End of the Point – July 2014

So far for the books that we’ve read I haven’t given you my opinion (well not as blatantly as I could have), but with The End of the Point I’m breaking that tradition.  I truly want you all to read this novel.  Hopefully my review will encourage that.

The End of the Point is a beautifully told family saga that follows the Porters of Ashaunt Point, Massachusetts from the tumultuous years during World War II up until 1999 (mentally insert Prince lyrics here – I know I have a warped mind – this book has nothing in common with the song except the year.)

When we first meet the Porters they are spending their summer in their second home on this tiny point of land that juts into Buzzards Bay.  Graver draws each family member from Bea the Scottish nurse to the Porter children, to Gaga the matriarch with a fine brush. Each member is integral part of the whole and truly human with desires, faults, and frailties.  What draws them together and keeps them whole is this ill-gotten parcel of land, bought from Native Americans before the Porter’s  ancestors came ashore by the first settlers for “thirty yards of cloth, eight moose skins, fifteen axes, fifteen hoes…” a true bargain. It’s the land that draws the family back year after year, summer after summer.  It’s the land that holds them together, shelters them, comforts and holds them.  A land that will change over time with hurricanes,  wars, and impending development – changes that take place outside of the Porter’s control.  The land  that is at once a  permanent member of Porter family, but their hold is tenuous at best.  A land that, like the Porter’s themselves,  is subjected to being disturbed and destroyed by the heavy hand of human intervention.

Graver gently reminds us that the earth doesn’t belong to us, we inhabit it and are entrusted with stewardship.  The house and the land that the Porters return to grounds them and sustains them, but in the end it will go on when they no longer exist.

There are books that as you read them you think “I could have written this.”  The End of the Point is a novel that reminds one that writing is a gift bestowed upon the few who are true artists.  Each word, each character, each event is deftly placed and beautifully done.  This is a book that is wholly human and elegant. Graver is a master and The End of the Point a masterpiece.

Visit Elizabeth’s blog: