Whistling Season Discussion Points
1. Does the life of a homesteader in 1907 Montana, as it is portrayed in the novel, appeal to you? Would you trade the comforts and the disconnection of modern life for the simplicity and the hardships of these characters' lives?
2. How does Doig foreshadow and hint at the novel's plot twists? For example, when did you first realize that Rose and Morrie might not be who they claim to be? Did you have a theory about their true identities?
3. Do Paul's dreams ring true to you? What do his dreams say about him?
4. What is the significance of the verse that Aunt Eunice quotes on page 22: "Yet, Experience spake / the old ways are best; / steadfast for steadfast's sake, / passing the eons' test"? Do you think the adult Paul would agree with the gist of this verse?
5. Compare the students’ excitement over the arrival of Halley's Comet with the panic over Sputnik and the quality of American education that has led to the adult Paul's being ordered to close the schoolhouses. Why do you think Doig frames the novel with these two events?
6. What do you think of the education that the children of Marias Coulee receive? How does it differ from your own education or the education of children today?
7. What makes Morrie a good teacher? Discuss the great teachers you have had, and what qualities they shared with Morrie.
8. In his review of The Whistling Season in the New York Times Book Review, Sven Birkerts wrote that Doig's writing answered the question, "Is there any way to write nowadays . . . that can escape the taint of knowingness, of wised-up cynicism?" Did you find the (mostly good and decent) characters believable? Compare this novel to other contemporary novels you have read recently. Are there any other contemporary writers to whom you would compare Doig?
9. Discuss the character of Brose Turley. Is it significant that he is the only character whom we see at a church service, in the revival meeting? What is the significance of his coming to Morrie when he is frightened by the signs of drought and the appearance of the comet?
10. On page 294, the adult Paul reflects that closing the one room schoolhouses will "slowly kill those rural neighborhoods ... No schoolhouse to send their children to. No schoolhouse for a Saturday night dance. No schoolhouse for election day; for the Grange meeting; for the 4-H club; for the quilting bee; for the pinochle tournament; for the reading group; for any of the gatherings that are the bloodstream of community." Today do you think other gathering places have replaced the schoolhouses?
11. Do you blame Morrie and Rose for keeping their identities secret from the Milliron family? Does Paul do the right thing in keeping their secret from his father?