The Assigned Visit (Paperback)

By Shelley Fraser Mickle

River City Publishing, 9781579660727, 361pp.

Publication Date: December 1, 2006

List Price: 16.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


As students in the same Harvard writing class, Susan Masters and Caleb Montiel make a pact: if either lives out a story too emotionally intense to handle, they will give it to the other to write. But the turmoil of the Vietnam era separates them, even as their stories begin to intertwine. Twenty years later, Susan receives a box of journals--a record of Caleb's social service on the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Camille, and of his secret, transforming love not only for the people and the place, but for Grayce Chadwick, a beautiful young wife and mother, extraordinary and irresistible to Caleb. Susan embarks on writing Caleb's story--which mirrors the complicated shame the nation suffered during the Vietnam years--only to find it still entwines with her own. The Assigned Visit is a portrait of how deep emotion endures across both time and distance.

Conversation Starters from

Compare the relationship of Caleb and Susan with that of Caleb and Grayciana Chadwick.  How is love transformative? Is it true that perhaps we learn to love long by once loving deeply?

What parts of Caleb and his father’s relationship are typical of that between other fathers and sons?

What part does culture play in who we are and how we love?

Food differentiates cultures. What other signposts do cultures place in peoples’ lives? What facts of the Vietnam War were you aware of as you read The Assigned Visit?

Did you know anyone who fled to Canada or went to prison? Whom did you know who received a draft notice, and how did he respond? How did the experience change him?

Are there similarities to the events of l969 and ’70 to today? How are we the same? How is America different?

Caleb suffers a devastating accusation, against which he cannot defend himself. Is his dilemma more prevalent today?

Barnes is a tormented character and finds himself at a moral crossroads. He has to “frame” his friend or face losing his wife. If he were a real character, how do you think he would be dealing with his memories today?

It is chilling to think that this story, set in the months after Hurricane Camille, is being relived, on even harder terms, after Katrina. Does reading this story, in which Pass Christian and the Coast appear as they once were, bring greater comfort or renewed grief?

Is Susan noble in her love for Caleb, or should she have voiced her feelings to him when she was a young girl in Boston?

Have you ever known anyone with Grayce Chadwick’s charisma? Can we even name what goes into her extraordinary appeal?