Hello Universe Readalong Part 2
For the second half of our discussion, I thought we could tease out the four main characters a bit more while discussing the events that follow in the second half of Erin Entrada Kelly's Hello, Universe. (Click here for the first part of our read-along discussion.)
In the second half of the novel, Virgil isn't merely a turtle coming out of his shell. He's transcending his shell, growing out of the spot that his family, his classmates, and he have placed upon him. He takes off his armor when he climbs down into the well to save Gulliver. And the second that Virgil realized that he couldn't reach the bottom rung of the ladder, I just KNEW why Gen was running around with a jump rope. Not that I minded because I think it made sense.
What did you think about Virgil? Now that he got the nerve to talk to Valencia, do you think he'll be braver in making other friends too? He DID ask his family not to call him turtle, which is a huge step.
As an aside, I grew up thinking that Filipinos have a million nicknames for their kids. Is that just my family?
In all honesty, Valencia was the most intriguing character of the book for me, and not just because she was deaf and read lips etc. One of my attendings during residency happened to be deaf with a cochlear implant so I didn't have any 'what if' curiosity. Instead I felt fully immersed in her world, and in the fact that even though Virgil is not deaf, both Valencia and Virgil have difficulty being HEARD in this novel. At first.
And then, we realize that Valencia has found her people in Kaori, Gen, and Virgil.
Coincidentally, this year we have read two (three) other books with main characters who happen to be deaf. Little Lion loved Cece Bell's El Deafo and has read it several times. It's a graphic novel and inspired by Bell's own experiences as a child. And Ana Sofia in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World and 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale also is hearing impaired. I love the fact that Valencia being deaf it isn't just a novelty, but rather written with purpose. Erin Entrada Kelly did a lot of research and it shows. I still wish, however, that Valencia's sections were written in third person past tense just like the other characters' sections.
Was this your first experience reading about someone who is deaf? How will it change your outlook when you see someone in real life who is deaf?
Kaori and Gen
Much like Lola, Kaori provides a bit of the magicorealism-slash-folkorism vibe of the novel. Kaori remains true to herself, even with some of her sister's skepticism. I like that she's young but still fully holds onto her beliefs. Though I still do wonder why she refers to her parents as Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka. And why they happen to be gone for most of the day.
I admit that I thought that Kaori would have realized who Valencia was sooner.
Kaori is a good friend to Virgil, and she and her sister are a great way to link the four of them together in this newfound friendship. I definitely can foresee some fun times for them in the imaginary next chapter of their lives.
I still think about Chet. While it's true that it wouldn't have been a realistic ending to have Chet repent and change his ways completely and make them all friends at the end, couldn't he have a tiny moment of reckoning? Was sitting in his driveway by himself, without his dad, without friends, without any self-esteem his moment of reckoning? Or was it too small and quiet? I feel bad that he's under pressure from his dad and feels unworthy, but I'm not sure he's fully fleshed out enough. His sections are short and not as meaningful as the rest. I wanted more.
Have you done a mean thing that you regret? I have many tiny moments, and I still remember most that happened (either to or by me) when I was a child. Certain things stay with you.
Lola and her stories
It's not just that this Lola tells stories that makes me love her, it's the fact that she's an old soul and somewhat all-knowing.
Take, for instance, when she meets Valencia. Do you think she didn't notice Valencia from the beginning when they saw her at the store? Does she know that Virgil and Valencia are kindred spirits?
What did you think about Lola's connection with Virgil? I love that she's the only one in the family who SEES Virgil for who he is. And <SPOILER ALERT>, I also love that she's instrumental in convincing the rest of the family to keep Sacred. I can just imagine Sacred's delight when Valencia comes over for a visit.
In essence, it's Lola's stories that help Virgil the most when he is trapped. Yes, he has Gulliver with him too, but he also has Ruby—from Lola's stories—who acts like a guardian of sorts when Virgil starts to lose hope. And, it's Lola who really greets him when he returns home. Everyone else is oblivious., though there are signs of hope that things may change soon enough.
Tell Dr. Bookworm!
Have you ever made an unexpected friendship connection?
What stories do you carry with you that have been passed on by your family?
I feel like I connected most with Virgil in this story and I understood his character and voice, which is what jarred me when the points of view shifted. Who did you connect with in this novel?