1. Both Ultima and Narciso are called “magic” by various characters in the book. Compare and contrast the characters of Ultima and Narciso. How does Ultima’s brand of magic differ from Narciso’s? How are they alike? In what sense might each character be called “magic”?
2. What does Antonio learn from his conversation with Gabriel during the trip to El Puerto after Florence’s death? How does this lesson help to prepare him for the challenges that lie ahead?
3. What is the significance of the conflict between English-speakers and Spanish-speakers that Antonio encounters at school? Why is language so important in the novel? In what sense does this conflict give Antonio perspective on the conflict within his family?
4. In María’s view, how are sexuality, adulthood, and sin related? Why is childhood preferable to adulthood? How do these factors influence her desire for Antonio to become a priest? And how does María’s own childhood influence her current beliefs?
5. What does Antonio learn from watching Gabriel cope with the rebellion of Antonio’s brothers?