Book Summary

Virginia has lost one husband to the Great War, and can’t find it within herself to properly love the second one. She has been stripped of privilege and place and been denied her simplest wishes. To protect herself, she retreats behind a mask of frigid solitude which is sufficiently adequate to protect herself from the risk of loving and being loved.

Eddie is a poor boy from an abusive home. At every turn, his drunkard Pa drives the family deeper and deeper into debt, fear, and despair. But Eddie doesn’t lose hope—not for his ma or his two younger siblings. He clings to the ideals of family love and reward for hard work.

Virginia and Eddie couldn’t be less alike, and yet their lives become intertwined by the harsh rules of reality and the vagaries of fate.

Crying Days is the story of men and women living in a time when America struggled through two world wars, devastating economic hardships, and a world-wide flu epidemic. It is the story of faith and human nature, and ultimately, it is the story of the triumph of the desire to live in defiance of the hardships of this world.


Major Themes

“Life goes at its own pace with or without your permission.” (p.16)
“There are different ways to love another person, all real, all true
to whom we are and where we’ve walked in this life.” (p.108)
“Giving love is so much more dangerous than being loved.”
“No one knows what God intends.” (p.126)
“People make mistakes that change lives.” (p.163)
“…strangers in the midst of those who belong.” (p.131)
“…maybe next year but no rush. There’s plenty of time.” (p.152)
“What kind of life would it be if we worried every day that this
could be our last?” (p.163)
“They left no trails to be followed, no trails at all for having lived.”


Discussion Questions

1. How would you characterize Ginny’s emotional reaction to
2. Do you believe that our responses to loss change as we grow older?
Did Virginia respond differently after John died, compared to the
loss of husband and home earlier in her life? How? Why?
3. Do you consider Eddie a murderer?
4. What parameters do you apply to define rape? Was Lottie
raped by her husband? Was Ginny raped after her marriage to
John? How are these instances the same or different from Lottie’s
experience with the Turner men?
5. Do you think the experience at Lottie’s funeral was important
to the course of Virginia and John’s marriage?
6. How would you describe the different value
systems operating among Granny Cricket’s
family, compared to John and Virginia’s?
7. Do you believe Granny Cricket had a “gift of
8. Was John and Virginia’s marriage a failure? If
so, who was responsible?
9. Would you have persevered as long as John
did in his loyalty to his spouse?
10. What was the significance of the cats and
kittens to Virginia? Do you think she was aware
of this obsession?
11. Why would John tolerate the cats?
12. Why did John wait so long to tell Eddie what he knew about
Eddie’s secret? Was John behaving ethically in keeping the
13. Was Eddie a boy/man you would have trusted?
14. What do you think will become of Eddie?
15. Which character(s) would you like to know more about?
16. Do people get what they deserve in life?
17. Are there times when we are protected against or warned of
impending danger by guardian angels or other God given
interventions? Examples?


Additional Points for Discussion

The author has set a scene in the opening ten pages—a scene consistent with the readers’ expectations of the late 1900s.

That saccharine-sweet picture of flower gardens, kittens and tearful good-byes is merely a drawing from picture books for little children—or for those adults afraid to recognize a world where troubles abound.

As the story moves forward, the reader is brought to face the reality of life and to question the issues that have been with us throughout the centuries:

  • What is the truth about war, beyond ideologies and patriotism?
  • When is a sexual encounter actually rape?
  • What are the parameters that define murder as opposed to self defense?.
  • Where do the edges of depression merge into insanity?
  • Whom do we love by choice and whom do we love by instinct?
  • How does faith in God sustain us through all the challenges of life and death?

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