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Book Discussion Questions: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

Cover of The Wednesday SistersTitle: The Wednesday Sisters
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Page Count:  288 pages
Genre:  Women’s lives and relationships
Tone:  Heartwarming, character-driven

Excerpted summary from publisher:

When five young mothers—Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally, and Brett—first meet in a neighborhood park in the late 1960s, their conversations center on marriage, raising children, and a shared love of books. Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesday Sisters Writing Society is born.. In the process, they explore the changing world around them: the Vietnam War, the race to the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves. At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes—ones brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

1. The first character we meet is Frankie.  She’s from Chicago but moves across the country to Palo Alto with her husband and two young children.  What kind of person is she?  What is it that brings her together with the other women in the park?

2. The next character we meet is Bret.  She is unique for wearing white gloves after that style is out of fashion.  We don’t find out why she wears them until much later in the book.  What did you think about the gloves? Were you surprised by why she wears them?

3. What was the significance of the mansion by the park?  What did it represent to the women and to the time period in which they lived?  Who was the person they saw walking around in the mansion? Why was she there?

4. Are the friendships realistic?  Do they seem similar to some of your own friendships?

5. Why was Frankie able to confess that she was trying to write a novel to Danny’s boss but not Danny?

6. This book takes place in the late ’60s at a time when things were beginning to change more rapidly for women in the United States, yet a lot of the old conventions were still in place.  In what ways did that affect the opportunities these women had, both in their personal lives and in their professional lives?

7. Some notable historical events that occurred at this time: moon landing, assassination of Bobby Kennedy, women’s liberation movement, and the Pentagon Papers.  Was this time in history particularly significant and/or more fraught with turbulence and change than periods since?  In what ways did that affect the characters and their generation?

8. Ally’s husband is Indian and they have trouble having a baby.  In what way does that affect her relationships in the group?  Does having or not having children not affect the women’s relationships amongst each other?

9. What do the books the sisters read say about them?

10. Frankie wanted to reinvent herself when she got to California.  She wanted to be called Mary rather than Frankie.  She imagined herself hosting parties and attending parties with her husband’s colleagues.  Was she able to reinvent herself?  How was her life similar or different to what she imagined?

11. How did Danny’s intelligence and success affect Frankie’s view of herself and their relationship?

12. Danny leaves his stable company to start a new venture in Metal Oxide Semiconductor chips without asking Frankie her opinion.  How does this make her feel?  Is this lack of communication indicative of the time they lived in or specific to their relationship?

13. What was the significance of the Miss America pageants to the women?  Why did they initially get together to watch it?  Over the course of the book, how did their feelings change?

14. In chapter 13, the sisters went to the funeral parlor and sat in a coffin.  What did that mean to the sisters?  (Page 84-85)

15. What do you think of the guidelines for mastectomy, as Linda experienced?  Was she powerless in the treatment process?

16. The women are so close to Stanford University and some encourage Frankie to go take classes there but she doesn’t feel like she can.  Why not?

17. The Wednesday Sisters have a big schism after they find out that Ally’s husband is Indian.  Why did Jim’s being Indian cause such a rift between the sisters?

18. What did you think of the scene on the Johnny Carson show?  How did the show mark a changing point in the lives of the sisters?

Other Resources

Discussion starter kit provided by author
Video of authors@Google talk with Meg Waite Clayton
Lit Lovers’ Discussion Questions
Interview with Meg Waite Clayton
Reading Group Guide

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Book Discussion Questions: The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw

Cover of The Lobster ChroniclesTitle: The Lobster Chronicles
Author: Linda Greenlaw
Page Count:  238 pages
Genre: Travel writing
Tone:  Richly detailed, Character driven, Nostalgic

Excerpted summary from publisher:
After 17 years at sea, Linda Greenlaw decided it was time to take a break and move back home to a tiny island off the Maine coast to pursue a simpler life as a lobsterman and find a husband. But all doesn’t go as planned. The lobsters refuse to crawl out, fellow islanders draw her into bizarre intrigues, and the eligible bachelors prove elusive. But just when she thinks things can’t get worse, something happens forcing her to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about life, luck, and lobsters. Filled with nautical detail and the dramas of small-town life, The Lobster Chronicles is a celebration of family and community.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

1. What did the author hope to accomplish by writing this novel? Was this strictly a story of a typical season of lobstering as the author mentioned in “The Note From the Author?”

2. Do you feel you learned a lot about the lobstering business from reading this book?

3. Does the life of lobstering appeal to you?

4. How would you describe a typical small-island lobsterman? What personality traits do lobstermen share? Why do they choose this profession?

5. What are the pros and cons of living on a small island like Isle au Haut?

6. Did you like the author’s writing style?

7. Did you find this story funny? If so, what parts stand out as humorous?

8. Linda Greenlaw has a college degree. Why did she decide to fish and then lobster rather than get a “real job” like her parents wished she would do?

9. Why do you think her parents said they wished she would get a “real job”? Do you think they really meant it? Did you find it ironic that her dad quit his “real job” and joined her in lobstering?

10. On page 207, did Linda waste her education fishing and/or lobstering? Do you agree that whatever path a person takes, “education is always being used?”

11. Was Linda a good business person?

12. How did you feel about the way Linda handled her gay helper Stern-Fabio?

13. Describe Linda’s relationship with her father.

14. Were you surprised (on page 106) how strongly Linda felt about removing the mainlanders’ gear from the islanders’ protected area – when the rest of the islands gave up so easily? Why was she so passionate about this compared to how laid back she was when Stern-Fabio stole her truck?

15. On page 221, why did the author include the chapter on Dorothea “Dotty” Dodge, the lady that she didn’t know very well?

16. After reading the book, did you believe the author when she said, “As proud as I am to say I’m an islander, nothing makes me prouder than to say, ‘I’m a fisherman.’ And that is not apt to change.”?

17. What were your thoughts when Linda told us that she is building a year-round home, but is undecided about how much of the year she will stay?

Other Resources

Linda Greenlaw’s writing process
Greenlaw on BookTV (starts at 8:20)
Guide to Lobstering in Maine

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