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The Arbor Teas Blog

Discussion Questions for The Wintree Waltz, This Year's Arbor Teas Summer Reading Series

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Join the conversation! We’ve put together a chapter-by-chapter list of discussion questions for  The Wintree Waltz, to share with friends, book clubs, or for your own introspection. This page will be updated every Thursday (June 2 - August 4) with questions related to that week’s chapter. Please note: they *will* contain spoilers, so if you’re not caught up, read this page with caution! 

Chapter 1 Discussion Questions
Chapter 2 Discussion Questions
Chapter 3 Discussion Questions
Chapter 4 Discussion Questions
Chapter 5 Discussion Questions
Chapter 6 Discussion Questions
Chapter 7 Discussion Questions
Chapter 8 Discussion Questions
Chapter 9 Discussion Questions
Chapter 10 Discussion Questions

Chapter 1

In  Chapter 1, we meet Jean and Erin Wintree, their mother Elaine, and John’s mother Nancy (aka "Fancy Nancy") at a near-impromptu tasting at the caterers. Later, Jean begins to confess something to her mother when they are interrupted – Nancy is at the door. She has come to return Jean’s engagement ring, forgotten at the caterer’s house.

Discussion Questions

What do you think are the differences between the two families – the Wintrees and Birnbauers? How do you think those differences might play out as the wedding approaches?

At the tasting, Jean and Nancy sample an array of cocktails, in search of a signature cocktail. Which cocktail would you choose, and why?

Do you think it is significant that Jean left her engagement ring behind?

Chapter 2

We spend the majority of  Chapter 2 in Erin’s point of view. We not only learn that she has a crush on her sister’s fiancé but that she believes that Jean doesn’t love him. Later, we see all three sisters, and their dates, at Ashley’s, a pub in town.

Discussion Questions

How does Erin arrive at the conclusion that Jean doesn’t love John? Do you think that this is true or that it’s simply wishful thinking on Erin’s part?

In this chapter, Erin reveals three secrets. What are they? How do you think they will impact the story?

Did you know that Ann Arbor really does have numerous fairy doors? We have a thriving Urban Fairy population, and the magical entrances to their dwellings can be found in many shops and storefronts sprinkled throughout downtown Ann Arbor. Does your community have fairy doors?

What is your take on the "magical" element in the story – the fairy atop a second-hand teapot?

Chapter 3

In Chapter 3, we spend some time with Clara, the eldest Wintree daughter in Eberwhite Woods with her fourth grade class. Jean is also in the woods, wanting to take photos of Clara’s class without Clara knowing. Jean is shocked still when she hears something in the woods and thinks it might be a bear. But the noisemaker is Robert, the friend Jean and John set Clara up with in the previous chapter, who just happened to be in the woods.

Discussion Questions

Jean loves to be in nature, and capture it for her art. Clara loves to be in nature, and enjoys the experience with her physical being. Do you think the sisters realize their common bond in their love of nature? 

Clara is a voracious reader and often reads more than one book at a time. What do you think of the books she was reading - "
The Invention of Nature", a collection of Kate Chopin’s short stories, and "Sense and Sensibility"? What do you think they reveal about Clara’s character?

What do you think of Robert’s appearance in the woods? Do you think that he was really there by chance?

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 takes place entirely during one evening, on the occasion of the Wintree’s first Sunday Dinner of the summer. Most of the story’s characters are there, including Robert, at Jean’s invitation. 

Discussion Questions

During the dinner, there’s an undercurrent of unease between John and Jean. What is the root of this? What did you think of Jean’s behavior at dinner?

After dinner, Edmund Wintree leads the party in a Regency-era Waltz. How do you think the dance is symbolic of the interplay between the characters?

What happened in this chapter between Robert and Clara? What did you make of Robert’s action at the end of the chapter, when he reached out to touch Clara but held back? Why do you suppose this happened?

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 takes place entirely during one summer evening, on the occasion of the Wintree’s first Sunday Dinner of the summer. Most of the story’s characters are here, including Robert, at Jean’s invitation. 

Discussion Questions

Jean's painting features the seen and the unseen, the real and the fantastical. It will feature multiple layers, multitudes of creatures, and she even wants to include an audio element. After work, "She had a giddy, blissful exhaustion… as she thought about the painting, what it could be." What do you think this work reveals about Jean, and about the story as a whole? 

Toward the end of the chapter, Erin asks John "Would it be so terrible if you didn't get married? I mean, if you didn't marry Jean?" Do you agree with her meddling in their relationship? Was Erin really prompted by the teapot fairy, or by her own desires? 

Do you think that the fairy is really talking to Jean? To Erin? What’s happening here?

Chapter 6

In Chapter 6, we witness Erin telling John that she’s not sure he and Jean are right for each other – and the fallout from that conversation. Later, after a tense family dinner, we learn that Clara isn’t alone in Mackinaw. Robert is there too.

Discussion Questions

Erin’s meddling acted as a catalyst for a necessary conversation between Jean and John. After that conversation, and the subsequent family dinner, how do you feel about their relationship? With the wedding just weeks away, do you think they can overcome their differences?

What do you think is behind Robert’s appearance in Mackinaw? Is he stalking her, or is there perhaps another meddlesome person in the family?

By the end of their impromptu date on Mackinac Island, Clara and Robert seem to have been drawn closer. What do you make of their relationship? How do you think it compares to Jean and John’s relationship?

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 has us in full vacation mode with Clara, as she travels through the Les Chenaux islands on a self-supported kayaking trip. By the end, she makes plans to connect with Robert and spend some time hiking with him before going back to Ann Arbor.

Discussion Questions

What do you think of Clara going on this trip by herself? What does it tell you about her character?

Throughout the trip, Clara thinks about her family, her life, and Robert. We see something begin to shift for her. What do you think it is about a trip like this, that would lead Clara to change?

By the end of the chapter, Clara invites Robert to join her. Were you surprised by this?

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 brings us to one of the biggest summertime events in Ann Arbor – The Ann Arbor Art Fair. It also brings a big career development for Jean, and a shocking turn of events: the wedding, just one week away, is canceled.

Discussion Questions

Only after we know that the wedding is canceled, do we see how and why it happens. What do you think of the author’s decision to begin with the news and then take us into the backstory to show us how it happened?

We only see Clara and Robert very briefly in this chapter. And yet, they seem very much together. What indications are there that their relationship has changed?

What did you think of Jean’s decision to cancel the wedding? Do you think it was the right decision, or do you think there’s a chance the couple will get back together? 

Chapter 9

Chapter 9, we witness the fallout from the canceled wedding. Instead of the wedding, Jean and John have their own parties. But there still could be a wedding yet. At the Wintree’s party, Robert proposes to Clara.

Discussion Questions

In Chapter 9, both families are devastated by the news, no one more so, it seems, than John’s mother Nancy. What do you make of Nancy’s role in the story? Do you think things might have been different for John and Jean had she not been so heavily involved?

This chapter is also the first time that Jean stands up to Nancy. Would you have done the same?

In this chapter we also see a change in Erin. She seems to have gained strength and insight from her sisters, and is ready to walk a different path than the one she thought she wanted. How do you think Erin has changed as the story has progressed?

Were you surprised by Robert’s bold action at the end of the chapter? How do you think Clara will respond?

Chapter 10

In  Chapter 10, Clara says yes! There will be a wedding after all! The surprising turn of events mean that the Wintrees will host a wedding in their home, something that Robert himself alluded to in Chapter 4. 

Discussion Questions

Were you surprised that Clara said yes?

What do you think the differences are between Clara and Robert’s relationship and Jean and John’s?

The fairy teapot is the same style as one owned by the Wintree girls' great-grandmother. Do you think this could be the same teapot, sharing its grandmotherly wisdom? Is the teapot really magical, or is it simply reflecting the characters’ inner thoughts?

Did you notice other magical themes in The Wintree Waltz?

The ending of this story signals a new beginning for each of the Wintree sisters. Where do you think they will all be in a year or two or ten?

Which character in The Wintree Waltz did you find yourself relating to and why?