Second Growth

Published in 1962
364? pages

Ruth Moore’s richly textured novel follows the lives of Hillville residents and the sometimes sullen, resentful violence that pervades the down and out town. Unbeknownst to anyone, a doctor adds an abandoned baby to the twin brothers Amy Randall has just given birth to, sparking a series of events filled with confusion and longing. Moore successfully explores a dramatic range of human experience from the innocence of childhood to the wisdom of age, from the sweetness of young love to the sorrow of death in both the body and the spirit. In this once prosperous Maine town, everyone is now desperately looking for the revitalization spawned by a second growth.

1. What would you have done with the abandoned baby if you were in Doctor Garland’s place? Did he make the right decision?

2. Doctor Garland begins to imagine a “ring-tailed devil” (page 90) that is first mentioned when Garland realizes the unknown baby’s luck is falling into place (29). Is there a relationship between luck and evil in Second Growth? Is the voice of the ring-tailed devil Garland’s, the voice of the reader, or simply the voice of the devil himself?

3. Who did you think was following Anzio on page 141? Did it surprise you to discover who it was?

4. How did you feel about the structure of the narrative as it moved from one person’s story to the next, then back again? Did it disrupt the plot for you? What was Ruth Moore’s intention with this story?

5. Lucy thinks that “There [is] enough evil in the world without reading about it in books” (171). Do you agree with her? Does Ruth Moore agree with her? 

6. Thinking back on her relationship with Ernie/Anzio, Connie says “I never knew you could turn off love like a faucet, but you can” (183). Is this true? Does the definition of love differ for each of the characters in Second Growth? If so, how?

7. What is the purpose of Beck and Jody’s storyline? What does a child’s perspective bring to Second Growth?

8. Did you find the titular “second growth” of the book more literal or metaphorical? What did this growth symbolize for you?