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Reading Group Guide for HOLD STILL
1. Although Maya has never had many friends, the few she does have are extremely
important to her. Two of them are former students—one of them a nonconformist
not unlike Ellie. Another is a free-spirited colleague. Given Maya’s personality,
did this surprise you? How do these unusual dynamics play out? Did you find
2. Why did Ellie become so rebellious? Why does she later often secretly wish she
were different? Does she make an effort to change? Why or why not?
3. Why do you think Strong wrote Maya as a Virginia Woolf scholar and her
husband Stephen as a Friedrich Nietzsche scholar? What do you learn about these
writers and their work through the novel? Do you think Maya and Stephen’s
respective literary obsessions reveal something about their personalities and ways
of relating to the world?
4. Maya is simultaneously consumed by love for her children and determined to
retain a separate identity. In what ways does this tension reveal itself? Do you
think she succeeds?
5. Hold Still straddles two parts of America, two distinct worlds. How does Strong
convey a sense of place? How does she contrast life in New York and Florida? If
you’ve been to either or both of these places, do her observations ring true to you?
6. What role does communication (or lack thereof) play in the novel? What thoughts
do the characters leave unspoken? How does this affect their interactions and the
outcome of the story?
7. Maya has always escaped into books when the real world was too overwhelming.
She is also an avid runner who enjoys pushing her body to its limits. Why does
she run? How do these two sides of her fit together?
8. How does Strong portray the reality, the ideal, and the meaning of parenthood?
Are they the same for all of the parents in the novel?
9. Benny often sees similarities between his mother and sister. Do you see them too?
How do Ellie and Maya view one another, both before the accident and after?
10. Part of what Maya loves about To the Lighthouse is “the vastness all wrapped up
inside the minutiae.” Small details and the everyday also feature prominently in
Hold Still. What effect do they have?
11. Annie and Stephen both come from wealthy families. Maya does not but has built
a steady middle-class life with her husband. Do economic status and privilege
affect how the characters behave? If so, how?
12. Stephen and Maya’s fragile marriage begins to buckle under the weight of
tragedy; Ellie uses sex as an escape; stolen glances and shared desires blur the
lines of infidelity. Explore how women and men relate to one another in the novel
and how their interactions in turn impact women’s relationships with each other.
13. Maya tells Charles, “We’re all only just the people other people think we are.”
What does she mean by this? Is this idea borne out in the novel? Do you agree
14. Did you like the novel’s leaps back and forth in time? Why or why not? Why do
you think the author chose this structure over a traditional linear narrative?
15. Annie tells Maya that they are ultimately more responsible for the accident than
Ellie is. Who do you think is most culpable and why?