What sort of portrait does Banshee and the Sperm Whale paint about our conscious existence? Are we in control of our lives in the way we often suppose? Are we free? Or are there forces beyond consciousness that determine or randomize our thoughts and behavior? Is the novel true to real life in these ways?
Did you have sympathy for Martin? Did you root for him? Did you hope that he and Ana would work out their problems and have a successful relationship?
What elements of Martin’s unconscious world derive from his relationship with his parents? How does upbringing in general inform his relationship with Ana and vice-versa?
What does Banshee represent in the book? What does the sperm whale represent? What part of ourselves do Angel Neurons and Diver Neurons point to? As it relates to Martin, do any of these aspects of the book give new meaning to the notion of a divided self?
Traditionally, a banshee is associated with mythology. Is there a greater myth present in the book? If so, how does it inform the general narrative arc of the novel?
In relation to God, consciousness and the meaning of life, Dr. Barrantine suggests an analogy between our lives and those of neurons, the thought being that just as neurons are a part of consciousness, we/humans could be a part of a greater mind. Under this assumption (and noting the neuron world specifically), what does the novel suggest about our ability to grasp the “greater mind” and its hopes, fears, intent and nature? Is there a parallel here with Eastern or Western conceptions of God?
Relatedly, if we are a part of a greater mind (much as the neurons are), what would this suggest about our ability to grasp our purpose in life, or to explain suffering (problem of evil), or even to understand good and bad? How might these perspectives relate to Martin’s indiscretions and to Martin and Ana’s journey as a couple?
What are your thoughts on Dr. Barrantine’s counseling methods, including his use of experimental technology and nature-based techniques? How did they help elicit awareness and facilitate key behavioral changes in Martin and Ana? Would you consider seeing Dr. Barrantine for your problems?
In reflecting on Pastor Samuel in particular, what was your interpretation of the ending of the book? Was it a happy or sad ending? Frustrating or satisfying? Was it paradoxical?
Was there anything in Banshee and the Sperm Whale that you found challenging or troubling or offensive, or that invoked stereotypes for which you could not make sense of (or could not justify) in terms of the aims of the novel and/or the spirit of literary expression?