FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA is listed in Reading Group Choices 2009. There’s laughter, there’s tears, there’s adventure and plenty of food for thought. There’s also the possibility of having the author talk to your book club either in person, by phone or by webcast. Invite Eve to your book club. There are also questions for discussion for FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA thoughtfully prepared for your book club. 1. Did Eve misrepresent herself to John during her Peace Corps interview? What traits do you think are important for a Peace Corps volunteer to possess? 2. Why do you think John recommended Eve so highly as a Peace Corps volunteer? What qualities did she display at her interview and afterward that convinced him she was right for the job? Do you think he was right? 3. What do you think of John? Is the portrayal of “St. John” an honest portrait, or do you think he is an idealized character? What are his negative characteristics? 4. Despite Eve’s reluctance to actually follow through with her Peace Corps plans, she does seem to handle the challenges of her Ecuadorian mission well, and derives sincere pleasure from being of service to the orphans she works with. Do you think her initial doubts are overblown? Does her commitment surprise her? Do you think she would have gone if not for John? 5. What lessons do you think Eve learned from her time in Ecuador? Do you think her Peace Corps experience helped her prepare for life in Uganda? 6. Before leaving for Uganda, Eve admits to Susan and Jean that she feels she needs to prove that she can survive a stint overseas. In fact, she remembers that she was the one to first suggest to John that they seek overseas jobs. Why do you think this need is so great? At what point do you think she has succeeded to her own satisfaction? 7. How do Eve and John relate to the expat community in Uganda? Do they have much in common? How much do they rely on their fellow expats? Is this a good support system? Why or why not?
8. Near the end of her stay in Uganda, Eve writes that Pauline would be proud of the “bush hostess” she’s become. Would Pauline be proud? How closely do you think Eve follows in Pauline’s footsteps as matron of the “big house”? Is it what Eve expected or hoped? Is it what Pauline expected? How are the two women different? 9. What do you make of the way Eve and John react to the very real dangers of Uganda: bombings, corruption, political unrest, and the hostage situation in their own home. Do you think they are too cautious or too blithe? Does their attitude change after the birth of their daughter? 10. After Sierra’s birth, Eve admits her inner doubts about returning with a newborn to Uganda. In the end, she reasons that it’s better to raise a child in an environment that is dangerous but nurturing, rather than one that is modern and convenient, but can be hectic and full of material distractions. Do you agree? Given the two extremes of New York and Uganda, which would you choose, and why? 11. Susan reminds Eve that “They have so little and we have so much.” How does Eve deal with the income disparity in Uganda? How does she adapt to the reality of having hired “help”? 12. What about Eve’s AIDS prevention work? Do you think she finds her few opportunities to contribute to be a source of satisfaction, or merely frustration? Objectively, do you think she has had a positive impact on her community? Why or why not? 13. Eve wonders whether Sierra will remember her early months in Arua. What impact, if any, do you think these experiences will have on Sierra’s later life? Do you have memories of your earliest surroundings? Do you think they have had a significant impact on the person you’ve become? 14. What do you think of the style and tone of Eve’s letters home? Does she withhold or exaggerate anything for the benefit of her friends and family? Which is a truer account: The letters she wrote at the time, or the memoir she wrote looking back? 15. After reading Eve’s account, did your impressions of Ecuador or Uganda change? How do you think native Ecuadorians and Ugandans would react to Eve’s descriptions of their country? 16. Did the book impact your opinion of the Peace Corps and similar organizations? How do you think you would handle the challenges of living in a developing country?
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