What homecomings take place during the book? Which is the most important and why?
Voigt's novel consists of a series of homecomings, some false and temporary and some more permanent. During the course of her travels, Dicey comes to realize that all homecomings are, to some extent, impermanent, with the possible exception of death. The first major homecoming in the book occurs when the children arrive at Eunice's, where the children hope Momma will be waiting for them. As Eunice does not truly love or accept the children, and as in Bridgeport the children come to grips with the fact that Momma will no longer be part of any home they have, this turns out to be a false homecoming and uproots the children even further.
The second major homecoming in the book occurs when the children reach Gram's house, the house in which Momma herself was raised and in which Momma's own mother still lives. In a way, this is a homecoming a generation removed: the children return home in Momma's place, and, as Gram slowly grows attached to the children and capable of reaching out to them, they manage to effect a symbolic reconciliation between Momma and her estranged mother. Accordingly, the children's arrival in Crisfield catalyzes a sort of homecoming for Gram, in which she returns to and learns to accept her past. Gram's emotional homecoming closely relates to the book's central and most important homecoming: Dicey's growing understanding that in her family, she has the most permanent and stable home this world can offer her. Their hazardous quest for a home teaches the Tillermans that by holding on to each other, they can create an emotional structure that can support and console each other.
Would the book have been essentially the same if it had consisted only of the journey between Bridgeport and Crisfield (if Momma had abandoned them in Bridgeport and there had been no Cousin Eunice in the book)? Why or why not?
Homecoming's two part plot, in which the trek from Peewauket to Bridgeport is followed by a similar trek from Bridgeport to Crisfield, allows the book to make a stronger and more complicated statement about the nature of home, the importance of family, and the resilience of the human spirit. The first leg of the journey by itself establishes the Tillerman children's tenacity and determination to remain together. At the same time, their experiences during the first journey illustrate their understanding of the dangers involved in such a trek. In light of this information, the children's decision to forsake a possible home in Bridgeport in hopes of a truer home in Crisfield takes on great significance, illustrating the children's need not only to be together physically, but to connect with each other emotionally and to be free of the sense of obligation Eunice put upon them. Their decision to leave Eunice's shows their need to live with a sense of self-respect and dignity as well. If the book had consisted only of one journey, Voigt could not have established so well the children's willingness to risk a good physical home for the chance of having a good emotional home, a place in which they can connect with each other, be true to themselves, and express themselves honestly.
Contrast Dicey's attitude toward Maybeth with Gram's attitude toward her in the last chapter. Who has a healthier attitude? Why do you think so?
Throughout their journey, Dicey wavers between protecting Maybeth and telling her the truth. Dicey lies to all her siblings in the beginning of the book, offering them the illusion that Momma and their father got married, thinking that this will ease the children's sense of alienation and displacement. When they leave for Crisfield on the bus, Dicey steels herself and speaks honestly to Maybeth, telling her they may have to return to Bridgeport, and Dicey is surprised when Maybeth tells Dicey she already understood this fact. Dicey feels that there are times when she must be truthful with Maybeth and let her face difficult things on her own, but she cringes when she has to do so and worries about the young girl.
Gram displays a slightly different attitude than Dicey. In the last chapter of the book, when Maybeth needs to take a diagnostic test, Gram objects to Dicey's willingness to acquiesce to Maybeth's desire to keep Dicey with her during the test. Gram crouches down beside Maybeth and tells the girl that she must face this test on her own, and that nothing is going to make it any easier. Gram is less willing to indulge the girl and more capable of pushing her into situations that may be challenging for her. Ultimately, Gram's attitude is healthier than Dicey's. Although Maybeth may need to be sheltered at times, she also needs the confidence that comes from being allowed to do things on her own and face the consequences of her actions.
Why does Dicey lie to her siblings about Momma's past? Does Dicey sometimes lie to herself? Why do you think so?
How does James react to being abandoned? How does his reaction evidence itself in his interactions with people outside the family circle?
Why does Gram finally decide to take the children in?
Why do the children leave Eunice's? Were they right or wrong to do so?
Why does Dicey love sailing and the ocean?