Discussion Guide


If you’re interested in discussing Waves in a book club or academic institution, here is a “study guide” aimed at generating conversation. Use the following questions to get and keep participation going. If the group is happy discussing one particular aspect, do not rush on to another. And there is no need to ask and answer exhaustively every single question suggested here.

Title and theme

  • As an icebreaker activity, the group can look at the two paintings used on the print-version cover of the book and say how they reflect the novel’s content.
  • In what way does the title relate to the book’s theme?
  • Are there any other themes or ideas recurrent throughout the book?


  • Where and when is the book set?
  • What historical events are portrayed in the story?
  • What do you know about these particular contexts?
  • How important is the setting to the theme and story of Waves?
  • What elements does the author provide to immerse the reader in his novel’s time and place? Are these elements convincing enough to you?


  • Who are the main characters in this novel?
  • Choose one of them and comment on him or her. Consider physical and personality traits, as well as actions that affect other characters and the story’s events.
  • Describe the relationships between members of the Ribot family.
  • Whom did you like or dislike the most and why?
  • Does any character remind you of yourself or someone you know? How?
  • What motivates the actions of the characters in the story? Their freedom of choice? The environment they are immersed in? A combination of both? Substantiate your answer.
  • Was there any moment when you disagreed with the choice any character made? If so, what would you have done differently? Why do you think they acted that way?
  • What sacrifices do the characters in the novel make? Do you think any character sacrifices too much or for the wrong reasons?
  • How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger those changes?
  • Would you like to meet any of the characters? What would you tell them?
  • In a movie version of this book, what famous actor/actress would you choose to play what part? Why?


  • Can you summarize the plot of this novel in one or two sentences?
  • Pick out a specific passage that stood out to you and comment on it.
  • Do you remember any piece of dialog that struck you as particularly profound, harrowing, revealing or funny?
  • How did you feel as you read this novel? Refer to specific passages to illustrate your answer.
  • What scenes do you consider pivotal in the book?
  • How would you have reacted in such situations if you were one of the characters?
  • How would the story have changed if that character had done things differently?
  • What do you think of the ending? Is it satisfactory? Did you expect it? Would you have ended the story in a different way? If so, how?
  • What do you think will happen to the characters five years after the book’s end? And ten years after?

Other questions

  • Do you find any symbolism in (any passage of) this novel?
  • What elements of Cuban life does the author celebrate or criticize? Consider family values, food, religion, economic/social/political structures, etc.
  • What issues does Waves raise? Have they affected your life or that of people you know in any way?
  • Have your views on these issues changed after reading the novel?
  • Do you think there are any solutions to these issues? How could they be achieved?
  • What have you learned reading this book? Has it had any impact on you?
  • Did you enjoy it in overall terms? Why or why not?
  • Did you feel that it fulfilled your expectations?
  • If you could talk with the author, what would you like to know about him and his work? What questions would you ask him?

Additional Resources

  1. Photographs of Marielitos and rafters as talking points to stimulate thoughts and participation.
  2. Opening scenes of film Scarface, directed by Brian de Palma, script by Oliver Stone.
  3. Documentary film Balseros, directed by Carles Bosch and Josep M. Doménech, script by David Trueba.