Check It Out Category: Fiction

Book Discussion Questions: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies book coverTitle: Necessary Lies
Author:  Diane Chamberlain
Page Count: 343 pages
Genre:  Domestic Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Haunting

Summary:
Set in the 1960s, the little-known North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program is brought to light as twenty-two year old Jane Forrester defies societal pressure and begins work as a social worker. Although they seem worlds apart, she becomes linked with fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart as both are haunted by tragedy and are confronted with the question, “How can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?”

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. In the first chapter, a woman named finds “Ivy & Mary was here” carved in the wall. Where did you think this book was going?

2. Initially we are introduced to Jane, a young woman who is getting married and is applying for a job as a social worker. What did you think about her? Did you find her character relatable?

3. What were your initial thoughts of Robert? Did you feel the same way about him throughout the book?

4. Robert desperately wants Jane to fit in, why do you think that is?

5. Out of Ivy, Nonni, Mary Ella, and baby William, who did you find to be the most sympathetic? The most interesting?

6. If you believe that Mary Ella was mentally challenged, do you think it was in Mary Ella’s best interest to have the procedure?

7. What did you think of Nonni’s ability to raise the family?

8. What did you think of Baby Williams care?

9. Did you think that Baby William should be taken away?

10. Mr. Gardiner did not want the police coming out to look for baby William (he said this was “private farm business”). Why?

11. Initially we did not know who Baby William’s father was, although fingers pointed to Eli. Did you believe that or did you have other theories?

12. Were you surprise Eli was Mary Ella’s brother?

13. How could you compare the Jordan family to the Harts? Which family was better off?

14. Lita had 4 sons and a daughter. People said all her children had a different daddy. Did that line in the book leave you with preconceived notions of her?

15. Why did you think Lita sent Sheena away?

16. What did you initially think of Henry Allen’s relationship with Ivy? Did your perspective change?

17. Jane did not love the idea of eugenics and she definitely didn’t want to do it behind her clients back.  In response to this, the director said “your self-righteousness is getting in the way of your duty to your clients.” What did you think of his comment?

18. Mary Ella wanted more children. She had no idea she had been sterilized. Jane decided to tell Mary Ella that she had been sterilized. Should she have? Why/Why not?

19. Why did Mary walk in front of Mr. Gardiner’s truck?

20. Do you think Ivy would be a legitimate candidate for the procedure?

21. When Ivy is told that she is pregnant she is please by this news after the shock. She says, “thank God for this little baby”. What did you think of her reaction?

22. What did you think of Henry Allen’s reaction to the pregnancy?

23. It seems the only real difference between Henry Allen and Ivy was a class distinction. Do you think things would have worked out differently if they were both of the same socioeconomic background?

24. There was a lot that come out at Mary Ella’s funeral. What did you think when Eli disclosed that Mr. Gardiner was Baby William’s and Rodney’s father?

25. What did you think of Jane taking Ivy to her home?

26. Why was the social worker, Paula, so insistent on finding Ivy and prosecuting Jane?

27. A side story was Jane’s relationship with Lois Parker. What drew her to Lois? What did you think about their relationship?

28. How did you like the ending?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Readers’ Guide for Necessary Lies.
Discussion Questions written by Tosa Book Club
Discussion experience by Whitney Book Bistroy
Book Reporter’s compilation of readers’ comments
Victims of State Sterilization Tell Their Story” (video)
Interview with Diane Chamberlain
“Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States”

READALIKES:

Before We Were Yours book coverBefore We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate

Plain Truth book coverPlain Truth
by Jodi Picoult

The House Girl book coverThe House Girl
by Tara Conklin

This Is Us: Fiction about Families

Holidays often mean time spent with family, and that can be joyous or…complicated.  The oft-quoted Tolstoy, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” might apply, but even the happiest have their moments. If you are looking for solidarity or reassurance through other family dynamics, your options run from the hilarious to the heartbreaking. Choose from one of these groupings, or contact us for your own personalized flavor.

Squabbling Siblings

Bread and Butter book coverBread and Butter
Michelle Wildgen
Ellen Meister

 

Home for the Holidays

Winter Street book coverWinter Street
Elin Hilderbrand
Green Road book coverThe Green Road
Anne Enright
Mary Carter

 

Modern Family

Color of Family book coverThe Color of Family
Patricia Jones
Run book coverRun
Ann Patchett
Zadie Smith

 

Delightfully Dysfunctional

Family Fang book coverThe Family Fang
Kevin Wilson
One Plus One book coverOne Plus One
Jojo Moyes
Jade Chang

 

We Are Our Past

Wally Lamb

Book Discussion Questions: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest book coverTitle:  The Nest
Author:  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Page Count: 353 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Lit, Dysfunctional Family Fiction
Tone:  Sardonic, Moving

Summary:
Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point after an ensuing accident endangers the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, which they are months away from finally receiving. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Is this book funny? Is it romantic (in world-view)? One review compared it to Nancy Meyers movies – (e.g., Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated); would you agree?

2. Multiple reviews compared the opening chapter in some way to a movie-ready hook with action, sex, and drama. Was this an effective way to set the story in motion? Did you find it irresistible or off-putting?

3. In an interview with BookPage, Sweeney says she’s always described the book as being about family and that it surprised her to hear it described by other people as a book about money. Does it surprise you that she didn’t predict others’ perception?

4. In that same conversation, Sweeney points out the book has given people the opportunity to talk about something that is important in everyone’s life but rarely discussed in public. In your opinion, is this true?

5. Did you happen to learn the idea that sparked this book?

… she got the idea for the book while walking through Manhattan one day, on her way to meet her own family for brunch. “I was noticing all of these people sitting in the window with their drinks, on every street corner,” she says. “And I just had an image in my head of family members who are about to get together, but they’re having a separate drink …and the image really stuck with me. And I just started thinking about who the people would be and why they needed courage to see one another, and why they couldn’t drink in front of one of another, and what was difficult about this meeting they were about to have. And once I started started answering those questions, that’s how the story started to take shape. (NPR: All Things Considered)

   What did the moments in the story prior to the lunch meeting reveal about each character?

6. Did you like spending time with the characters? Does that matter? Were there those you were more excited to read about or with whom you could better identify?

7. Were the siblings wrong to make plans for the anticipated money? Do you blame them?

From The Washington Post: An organization called Wealth-X (world’s leading ultra-high net worth intelligence firm) issued report about what it calls “looming wave of wealth transfers”.  Baby Boomers are expected to bequeath some $16 trillion to their children over the next three decades…For rich, this holds little suspense, but for upper-mid-class Americans balancing mortgage payments, tuition bills, and retirement plans on a brittle tower of monthly paychecks, this bounty looms with the promise of salvation.

      Does this frame change your answer at all?

8. Is Leo believable as a character? Do you have any sympathy for him?

9. Are the Plumb characters well-rounded?

10. What about the siblings’ partners? Are the non-Plumb characters too idyllic?

11. Many readers express an affinity for Stephanie. Why do you think that is? Were you rooting for her and Leo to be together? Would you have wanted to read even more about her?

12. What about the subplots with Miranda, Vinnie, and Tommy? Were you invested in these stories as much as those of the Plumbs?

13. The New York Times Book Review piece on The Nest opens with this line: “’The Nest’ is a novel in the Squabbling Sibling genre.” Do you think of this as a genre?

14. Another behind-the-scenes tidbit:

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s agent sent her novel to publishers the Monday after Thanksgiving. As readers who had likely spent long weekends with their own dysfunctional families, he told her, they would be especially receptive to her book’s dysfunctional Plumb clan. The plan worked, and the 55-year-old’s debut landed a seven-figure advance. (The Atlantic)

      Do you admire the calculated timing, or does it seem coincidental?  In your opinion would the book have been just as well received without the proximity to the holidays?

15. The Nest is about a group of privileged group of people – upper-middle-class white siblings – yet would you say that it is successful in touching on issues more universal? How so?

16. It’s also been described as a “New York novel”, a category that though lauded in literary circles is criticized for being too navel-gazing (esp. with authors and agents included!). Would you place it in this category? What makes it so? What transcends those boundaries?

17. The Nest is about inheritance, and upon hearing that word we immediately think of money, objects, or property. What about the intangibles we inherit from family? Consider the siblings and what is illustrated about how we inherit a place in a family and all that entails. What do you think?

18. Walker is fascinated that a group of adults could use the term ‘the Nest’ in all “earnestness and never even casually contemplate the twisted metaphor of the thing, and how it related to their dysfunctional behavior as individuals and a group.”(260) What did he mean?

19. Walker also observes that the issue with Leo and the money sparked a different dynamic between the siblings, that they were “making casual forays into one another’s lives”…and held out hope that they might ”…move on, try to forge relationships with one another that weren’t about the inheritance.”(261) Did you notice this, too?  Do you think this would have happened without the situation with Leo?

20. Late in the book, Melody asks, “when did Leo start hating us?…How was it so easy for him to leave?…Was it really just about money? Was it about us?”(291)  We’ve seen things from Leo’s perspective; can we answer those questions?

21. How did the scenes with Louisa and Nora add to the overall story? What, if anything, do the sisters – both individually and together (esp. as twins!) illuminate regarding family and individual dynamics?  Did you see these forays into the ‘next’ generation as distraction or complements?

22. Melody has an epiphany about herself (with Walt’s help) at the Chinese restaurant outing (300). Do you remember what she realized?  Do you think her life will be different going forward?

23. How did you feel about the final scenes of looking for Leo? About the scene from Leo’s perspective?  Should Paul or Bea or Leo have acted differently?  Did you understand their actions?

24. Were you hoping that Leo would redeem himself? Does the author’s choice seem believable?

25. Did the epilogue resolve everything a little too neatly, or did you find it satisfying?

26. NYT Critic “Janet Maslin argued that the primary flaw of the novel was that it was unable to break out of the tropes of dysfunctional family literature.” Would you agree? Whether or not you agree, did this affect your experience of the book?

27. One book podcast recommended this title for a woman who doesn’t read but who loves reality TV such as the Real Housewives franchise. In your opinion, is this a good fit?

28. To whom might you recommend this book?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

website of author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
LitLovers discussion guide of The Nest
MPPL-created character map (contains mild spoilers)
from NPR: “Humor and Heart Fill The Nest
In The Nest, a Family Pot to Split Sets Sibling Relations to a Slow Boil” via The New York Times
The Nest: A Tale of Family, Fortune, and Dysfunction” via The Atlantic

READALIKES:

Seven Days of Us book coverSeven Days of Us
by Francesca Hornak

This Is Where I Leave You book coverThis Is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper

Vacationers book coverThe Vacationers
by Emma Straub

More to Read for National Reading Group Month

Reading Group Month logoWe’re now deep into National Reading Group Month, and there’s still so much to discuss! Perhaps your group has already tackled all fifteen books suggested in Part One, and you are eager for a different take. Allow us to introduce five additional categories with titles guaranteed to bring out your opinionated side.
 
 
 

Contending with the Unimaginable

Room
Emma Donoghue
Andy Weir

 

Solve the Mystery

Likeness book coverThe Likeness
Tana French
Cuckoos Calling book coverThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Robert Galbraith
Zoë Ferraris

 

Challenge the Norm

Quiet book coverQuiet
Susan Cain
Half the Sky book coverHalf the Sky
Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Bryan Stevenson

 

Discussions in Translation

Elegance of the Hedgehog book coverThe Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
tr. Alison Anderson
The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
tr. Lucia Graves
Fredrik Backman
tr. Henning Koch

 

And the Award Goes To…

Salvage the Bones book coverSalvage the Bones
Jesmyn Ward
Colum McCann

 

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor or ask online to visit our virtual desk. Also, check out titles in our book discussion collection, shop those available as Books-to-Go discussion kits, and help yourself to original questions and resources available through our website.

What to Read for National Reading Group Month

Reading Group Month logoThe truth that “good books bring people together” is one of the founding principles of National Reading Group Month. Whether you have been involved with a book club for years or have been thinking of trying your first, there is no better time to explore the possibilities of a story ripe for discussion. Find your category below and celebrate with a new title that entertains, challenges, and inspires!

 

Fabulous for First Discussions

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society book coverThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Sandra Dallas

 

Never Tried Nonfiction?

Year of Yes book coverYear of Yes
Shonda Rhimes
Warren St. John

 

Looking for a Lighter Option

Crocodile on the Sandbank book coverCrocodile on the Sandbank
Elizabeth Peters
Laura Dave

 

Staff-Selected Superstars

Cover of The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans
Cristina Henríquez
Candice Millard

 

Not Afraid of Next-Level Reads

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Land of Love and Drowning book coverLand of Love and Drowning
Tiphanie Yanique
Kate Atkinson

 

UPDATE: Find more suggestions in Part Two of this series!

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor or ask online to visit our virtual desk. Also, check out titles in our book discussion collection, shop those available as Books-to-Go discussion kits, and help yourself to original questions and resources available through our website.

Fiction: Never Been Kissed by Molly O’Keefe

Never Been Kissed book coverNever Been Kissed by Molly O’Keefe is a steamy story of temptation. Ashley Montgomery’s plans to volunteer at a refugee camp in Africa are interrupted when she is captured by Somali pirates. Luckily for her, her family’s old bodyguard Brody Baxter comes to her rescue. To protect Ashley from the press and her family, they hole up in a small apartment above Brody’s brothers bar where Ashley learns Brody is in need of some rescuing too.

While your adventures will most likely be a lot different than Ashley Montgomery’s, you can help change someone’s life through volunteering! Come out to the Mount Prospect Public Library Volunteer Expo on September 23, 2017 to see a variety of volunteer opportunities available to you in or near Mount Prospect.

Book Discussion Questions: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians book coverTitle:  Crazy Rich Asians
Author:  Kevin Kwan
Page Count: 527 pages
Genre:  Satire, Mainstream Fiction
Tone:  Humorous, High Drama, Witty

Summary:
Envisioning a summer vacation in the humble Singapore home of a boy she hopes to marry, Chinese American Rachel Chu is unexpectedly introduced to a rich and scheming clan that strongly opposes their son’s relationship with an American girl.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What are your thoughts on the title? Did you read it as “Crazy-Rich Asians” or as “Crazy, Rich Asians”?

2. There is an article entitled “A Whole New Wave of Stereotypes”, which discusses the way this book turns some old Asian stereotypes upside down. How do you react to the idea of this book stereotyping?

3. In the Prologue, Reginald Ormsby – GM of a posh London hotel – wouldn’t let Eleanor, Felicity, Alexandra and their families stay at the hotel. What did you think of this opening? This happened in the 80’s; were you surprised by racial implications?

4. What did you think of the characters in this book? Who was your favorite? Who drove you crazy?

5. Were you able to relate to any of the characters? The families? Why or why not?

6. Were you aware of the wealth in Asia before reading this book?

7. As Part Two begins there is a quote from Marco Polo “I did not tell half of what I saw, for no one would have believed me”. Kevin Kwan said in an interview that his editor had him “remove certain parts of Crazy Rich Asians because they were too unbelievable, even though they were grounded in reality”. What did you think of the descriptions of mega wealth in this book?

8. Given the opportunity would you want to live the super rich life style? Do you think it could be stressful?

9. What do you think of the “old money” versus the “new money” divide in this book?

10. Nicholas didn’t feel his money would change his relationship when Rachel found out. What are your thoughts?

11. What do you think of the role women play in this book?

12. Sophie told Rachel, “No matter how advanced we’ve become, there’s still tremendous pressure for girls to get married. Here, it doesn’t matter how successful a woman is professionally. She isn’t considered complete until she is married and has children”. What do you think of this statement and do you think it would ring true in the United States?

13. Do you think any couple in this book has a “good” marriage? Are the relationships different than the average marriage?

14. Rachel goes with Araminta’s friends to her super exclusive bachelorette party, but she does not seem to be accepted by the group. Why do you think that is?

15. What relationship do you think these women have with each other?

16. Was there anything from the bachelorette party that you were fascinated with?

17. What did you think about Colin’s bachelor party?

18. Both Nick and Astrid offered to leave their family for their respective partners. What do you think about this? Can family ever be left behind completely?

19. What did you think about the disclosure of Rachel’s father?

20. How would you characterize Astrid’s friendship with Charlie Wu?

21. Do you think Nick and Rachel get married? Should they?

22. In chapter 16, Dr. Gu, said that Rachel is “a fortunate girl, then, if she marries into this clan”. What do you think about that statement?

23. What did you think about Singapore? Were you curious to learn more?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

website of author Kevin Kwan
Entertainment Weekly interview with Kevin Kwan
LitLovers discussion guide
Kevin Kwan: Americans Will Embrace ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Movie” via The Washington Post
Singapore’s Multimillionaires: New Wealth Report Busts the Myths” via Forbes
Crazy Rich Asians Presents A Whole New Wave of Asian Stereotypes” via The Guardian

READALIKES:

Rich Kids of Instagram book coverRich Kids of Instagram
by Maya Sloan

Great Gatsby book coverThe Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nanny Diaries book coverThe Nanny Diaries
by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

Staff Pick: Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick

Picture of DonnaBenedict owns a gem stone shop in England. His life is quite complacent; business is slow and he is estranged from his wife and brother. Everything changes when Gemma, his niece from America, arrives on his doorstep. As the story progresses, there are frequent references to gem stones, their meanings and how they influence the story, such as how rose quartz means love, peace and appreciation. Try Rise and Shine Benedict Stone by Paedra Patrick for a charming, uplifting story.

Fiction: Comfort Reads

We wouldn’t be readers if we didn’t find respite in our books. Though stories may be opened in the hope of thrills, experiences, or discoveries, often a well-chosen book is claimed as a port in the storm of tough times. The next time your spirit hungers for cozy and reassuring, try (or revisit) one of these comfort reads:

I Capture the Castle book coverI Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith
Story of a bright 17 year old girl living in semi-poverty in an old English castle, told through her journal entries. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”– and the heart of the reader– in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.
Little Prince book coverThe Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
An aviator whose plane is forced down in the Sahara Desert encounters a little prince from a small planet who relates his adventures in seeking the secret of what is important in life.
Cranford book coverCranford
by Elizabeth Gaskell
A comic portrait of early Victorian life in a country town which describes with poignant wit the uneventful lives of its lady-like inhabitants, offering an ironic commentary on the separate spheres and diverse experiences of men and women.

 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull book coverJonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach
More concerned with the dynamics of his flight than with gathering food, Jonathan is scorned by the other seagulls in this story perfect for those who follow their hearts and who make their own rules.
The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
A classic swashbuckling romance retells the tale of a drunken swordsman and a gentle giant who come to the aid of Westley, a handsome farm boy, and Buttercup, a princess in dire need of rescue from the evil schemers surrounding her.
Pride and Prejudice book coverPride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Human foibles and early nineteenth-century manners are satirized in this romantic tale of English country family life as Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters are encouraged to marry well in order to keep the Bennet estate in their family.

 

At Home in Mitford book coverAt Home in Mitford
by Jan Karon
Longing for change in the face of burnout, Episcopal rector Father Tim finds his lonely bachelor existence enriched by a stray dog, a lonely boy, and a pretty neighbor.
Hobbit book coverThe Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to take part in an adventure from which he may never return.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley
Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, begins her adventure when a dead bird is found on the doorstep of her family’s mansion in the summer of 1950, thus propelling her into a mystery that involves an investigation into a man’s murder where her father is the main suspect.

 

 

Book Discussion Questions: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl book cvoerTitle: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
Page Count: 322 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, Reflective

Summary:
Recounting the story of her life to her granddaughter, octogenarian Addie describes how she was raised in early-twentieth-century America by Jewish immigrant parents in a teeming multicultural neighborhood.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1) When Aaron courts Addie, he says he’s going to turn her into a real Boston girl by taking her to the symphony, Red Sox game, and Harvard Yard. Where would you take someone to turn them into a real Chicago girl?

2) One definition of historical fiction says that the goal of historical fiction is to bring history to life in novel form. Did Diamant succeed?

3)Did you learn something from The Boston Girl?

4) What impression do you think would you get of the United States if you were from another country and reading this book?

5) Where the characters beliefs and mannerisms appropriate for the time?

6) Diamant titled the book The Boston Girl. With what you know about Boston, do you think her life would have played out the same way in another city? How important is location to the story line?

7) How would you describe it the tone and style of The Boston Girl? Did that work for you as a reader?

8) Addie’s granddaughter asks her what made her the woman she is today. Addie’s answer is a monologue. Would The Boston Girl have been as effective told in a different way?

Diamant says that she was concerned that Addie’s story leading to a happy marriage might be too small and mundane to keep readers turning the pages. From Diamant: “But once I made Addie the narrator, I realized- or remembered- that we don’t experience history in the abstract; we live inside of it. Addie experiences the momentous events of the early 20th century at eye level. A girl bobs her hair. A veteran of the Great War collapses on the beach. A friend dies because she ignores the warnings about the flu epimic and goes dancing. In Addie’s life, the geopolitical is personal, the immigrant success sage is hantued by loss and despair: war and disease are tests of reliance, even for those on the sidelines. Even for those who survive.”

9) What national or global events happened during Addie’s lifetime?

10) Which ones does she mention? Do you feel she was deeply affected by them?

11) If you were retelling your life story, what weight would you give large scale events?

12) Some critics unfavorably compared this to The Red Tent, which has a more serious mood and is told in the third person. Do you think literary fiction is as effective when the tone is cheerful? Why or why not?

13) Describe Addie’s mom. Are Addie and her sisters equally affected by her?

14) Celia was the most loved by Mameh and had her whole family’s love. She married Levine, a kind man. Why do you think Celia found life so very difficult?

15) Her other sister, Betty, is described by Addie as the most like her mom. What made Addie say that? Do you agree? Did your feelings for Betty change as the story progressed?

16) How would you describe Addie? What do you think made her able to stand up to her mom?

17) This is how Addie describes her father: “I didn’t know my father very well. It wasn’t like today, where fathers change diapers and read books to their children. When I was growing up, men worked all day, and when they came home we were supposed to be quiet and leave them alone.” It seems as if Addie absolves her father of responsibility to his family because of the times. Do you agree? Was he at all to blame for the home dynamic?

18) How does Addie’s world begin to expand beyond her home?

19) Who were some of the people who gave her a chance? Do you have a favorite, or one character that you think made the biggest difference in her life?

20) She had a lot of good fortune with the people she met- people willing to give her friendship, learning opportunities, vacation destinations, and jobs. Was this a realistic portrayal of life for a young female, Jewish daughter of immigrants? Is it within the realm of possibility?

21) Some people Addie mentions were definitely not friends, but she included them in her answer to Ava about how she became the woman she is today. One of them was her first romantic interest, Harold, “the wolf.” Why do you think she told her granddaughter about him? Why do you think she continued to see Harold?

22)Addie says, “I’m still embarrassed and mad at myself. But after seventy years, I also feel sorry for the girl I used to be. She was awfully hard on herself.” What does she mean?

23) It’s actually Harold who calls her, “My favorite Boston girl.” (p 82) If you were going to call yourself _______boy/girl, how would you fill in the blank?

24) Addie’s next boyfriend is Ernie. She doesn’t seem too emotional about him, and decided to let him go, so why do you think he is included in her story about what shaped her? What did she learn from him?

25) Addie says that many young women were focused on getting married. What do you believe she was focused on?

26) The chapter where Addie meets her future husband, Aaron Metsky, is entitled “Never apologize for being smart.” What connections do you make between the title and Addie and Aaron’s relationship?

27) Addie spends more time talking about her jobs along the way: cleaning for the summer, working for her brother in law, the newspaper office than she does about her current job. How were these experiences important enough to relay to her granddaughter?

28) Addie tries on pants for the first time (p.108) when she and Filomena visit Leslie and Morelli. Addie says, “It makes me want to try riding a bicycle and ice skating and all kinds of things.” Leslie asks what other kinds of things and Addie answers, “I’d go to college.” Do you believe that clothes so powerfully affect what a person feels capable of doing?

29) Would you say Addie had a blessed life, or a difficult one?

30) Based on Ava’s question at the beginning of the book, “What made you the woman you are today?”, how would you speculate Ava saw her grandmother?

31) Addie answers through a book’s worth of stories. If you were to sum it up, what made Addie the woman she is today?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

Other Resources:

Reading Group Guide from publisher
Washington Post book review
Q&A with Anita Diamant
Anita Diamant interview with Jewish Book Council
Biography of Anita Diamant

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