Check It Out Category: Book Groups

Book Discussion Questions: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Cover of What Alice Forgot

Title: What Alice Forgot
Author: Liane Moriarty
Page Count: 487 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Women’s lives and relationships
Tone: Reflective, Humorous

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

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2014 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Did reading What Alice Forgot lift your spirits up or bring them down?

2. Does the title represent the book well? Were you surprised the book wasn’t just about Alice?

3. Were you aware the book was set in Australia? Does it matter where it takes place?

4. How did Alice change in her 30s? Were they good changes, bad, or some of both?

5. Elisabeth acts as a primary tour guide of Alice’s life. How important is it for at least one person to have a good handle on what’s going on with you at any given moment?

6.What does Frannie have in common with Elisabeth and Alice?

7. How has Alice’s relationship with her mom growing up affected Alice’s role as a mother?

8. How is contemporary motherhood portrayed?

9. What does this book say about the effect having children and/or trying to conceive has on a marriage?

10. How are children portrayed in this book?

11. How have Alice’s relationships changed as she has gotten older? Do you think the changes in her relationships are natural?

12. Nick and Alice speculate they got married too young, do you agree or disagree?

13. Why was Alice drawn to Gina? In what ways was Gina a good friend and in what ways was she a poor choice?

14. Do you find it believable that Alice could be so strongly influenced by one friend?

15. If you could meet Alice at age 29, what advice would you tell her?

16. Why do you think the author chose the ages of 29 and 39?

17. What does Frannie’s story add to the book? Does it feel essential to the construction of novel?

18. What do you think about how Elisabeth is portrayed; did you enjoy reading her “homework”?

19. What type of balance ends up happening between Alice at age 29 and Alice at age 39?

20. In Elisabeth’s last piece of homework to Dr. Hodges (pg. 443), she supposes he and his wife might be “struggling with the problem of when is the right time to give up” – she offers a complicated answer. “We should have given up years ago” but also she “would go through it all again… Yes. Absolutely. Of course I would.” What do you think of this perspective? Is it realistic?

21. Do you like how the book ended? Do you like the glimpse into future of characters’ lives in the epilogue?

22. Has reading this book changed the way you think about anything?

23. What can a young person learn from reading What Alice Forgot? How about an older person?

Other Resources

If you liked What Alice Forgot, try…

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Book Discussion Questions: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore book cover

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

Title: The Other Wes Moore
Author: Wes Moore
Page Count: 233
Genre:  Memoir, pop sociology
Tone: Moving, fast-paced, thoughtful

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What drove author Wes Moore to write to the prisoner Wes Moore? Why do you think prisoner Wes Moore wrote the author back?

2. Have you ever, or would you ever, write a prisoner? Why or why not?

3. What was the fate of author Wes Moore’s father? Do you think his father might have survived under other circumstances? (p. 15)

4. What was the fate of prisoner Wes Moore’s father?

5. What significance did fathers play in the lives of both Wes Moores?

6. Did both Wes Moores have strong mother figures? Do you think both mothers tried their best? Is there anything that either of them could have done differently?

7. Do you think one Wes Moore had a stronger family unit or a better support system while growing up? How can having a strong support system change a child’s life?

8. Outside of his family, who warned author Wes Moore about the bad path he was on? (police officer after he got caught tagging) Did Moore heed this warning? For how long? Why didn’t the change stick?

9. Author Wes Moore states, “Later in life I learned that the way many governors projected the numbers of beds they’d need for prison facilities was by examining the reading scores of third graders.” (p. 54) How did reading this make you feel? Why?

10. What allowed author Wes Moore to go to better schools than prisoner Wes Moore?

11. Author Wes Moore states, “Soon it became clear that the Riots were about more than the tragic death of Dr. King. They were about anger and hurt so extreme that rational thought was thrown out the window – these were people so deranged by frustration that they were burning down their own neighborhood.” (p. 19) Does this “deranged frustration” make sense to you? Are there places today’s America that feel like this?

12. Author Wes Moore talks about the Bronx in the 1980s and early 1990s as an apocalyptic place to be with drugs, burned out buildings, and crime everywhere. Are there still cities like this today? What causes cities to crumble like this? How does living in a neighborhood like this affect a person?

143. At what ages did both Wes Moores start to “go wrong”? Were you surprised by how young they were? What kind of crimes was author Wes Moore into? What about prisoner Wes Moore?

14. What was your first impression of author Wes Moore? What about your first impression of prisoner Wes Moore?

15. How did each Wes Moore respond to danger and aggression? Were their reactions the same?

16. How did Tony try to dissuade prisoner Wes Moore from following his illegal path? Why did it work or not work?

17. At one point, Mary, prisoner Wes Moore’s mother, flushed his drugs down the toilet. What did you think of her actions? Was it enough? Would you have done anything different?

18. Military school obviously benefited author Wes Moore. Do you think there were any other paths that could have set him on the straight and narrow?

19. Prisoner Wes Moore joined Job Corps. Did it help him? What did he go on to do after he exited the program? Why?

20. Prisoner Wes Moore continued to proclaim innocence, saying he wasn’t there for the robbery. Do you think the author believed him? Did you believe him? Do you think he should have been sentenced to life in prison?

21. What did author Wes Moore go on to do after exiting military school?

22. What do you think was the defining factor of why author Wes Moore stepped out of his cycle of destruction and prisoner Wes Moore did not?

23. What does education have to do with the path that each Wes Moore landed on then continued on?

24. What does racial privilege have to do with the stories of both Wes Moores?

25. What does economic privilege have to do with the stories of both Wes Moores?

26. Are racial privilege and economic privilege tied together? How so or how not?

27. Was there a topic you wished the author delved deeper into?

28. After the epilogue, there is “A Call to Action”. What is this section about? Why do you think the author put it in the book? Did reading The Other Wes Moore make you feel called to action? What other books have made you want to take action in the world?

29. If someone enjoyed reading The Other Wes Moore, what books would you recommend to them?

30. Are there any documentaries you would recommend to someone who enjoyed this book?

Other Resources

If you liked The Other Wes Moore, try…

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Book Discussion Questions: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers book cover

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

Title: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbough
Page Count: 322
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Engaging, emotional

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The story starts with a fire. What happens to Victoria? How does she react?

2. The Language of Flowers goes back and forth in time and each section is titled. What’s the first section called and how does it fit Victoria?

3. What do you think of Meredith, Victoria’s caseworker? Could she have done more for Victoria?

4. What flower does Victoria choose to give Meredith? Is Victoria’s assessment fair?

5. Meredith leaves Victoria with $20 and the advice to get a job. What does Victoria do instead? Why do you think she is so unconcerned with her future?

6. Why does Elizabeth begin trying to reconnect with her sister? Did you sympathize with Elizabeth’s focus on this?

7. How does Victoria test Elizabeth at the beginning? What happens after this initial testing period? What does Elizabeth tell Victoria about her behavior?

8. What characters come into Victoria’s life? Did you like them? Why or why not? What did you think of the “flower vendor” at first? Did your opinion change?

9. Victoria doesn’t recognize Grant at the flower market. What does he give her and how does she respond?

10. Victoria ends up in the library to find out the meaning of white poplar. What other discovery does she make and why is this problematic?

11. Is Victoria able to see nuances in life? Elaborate.

12. How does Grant court Victoria? Why does he persist with her? Are there any signs at all that she wants a relationship?

13. Grant learns to cook, lets Victoria sleep in his home and nurtures her interest in creating a flower book of her own. Is he an unrealistic character or do you think he’s a good guy and she got lucky?

14. Things are going well for Victoria at the flower shop. What talent does she discover that she has?

15. Do flowers really have the power to change outcomes for people? What do you think happened with Earl and Bethany?

16. What keeps Elizabeth from adopting Victoria? What did you think of her ennui? Why did Elizabeth say she couldn’t go through with the adoption? Was Elizabeth fit to be a mom?

17. How does Grant respond when Victoria tells him that they will never be like that old couple? What brings them back together? Why do you think Victoria keeps coming back to Grant when she so adamantly insists that she can’t love?

18. What sparks Victoria to make love with Grant? She initiated the encounter, but where is her mind during it? How does she respond to the news that she is pregnant?

19. What struck you as realistic and not realistic inVictoria’s pregnancy and delivery scenes? Were you surprised that Victoria avoided Mother Ruby as a source of help? As her labor became intense, who did Victoria want with her and why?

20. What flower does Victoria give Grant when she leaves? What does it mean?

21. Where did Victoria get the idea to set the fire and why did she do it? Why does she never speak up, even when Elizabeth is accused?

22. Did Victoria change when she became a mother? How do you know? Did motherhood change how Victoria views others? How comfortable were you with Victoria’s experience as a new mom?

23. How does the baby react after Victoria’s night in the woods?

24. What did you think of the end of The Language of Flowers?

25. Victoria said, “I wanted more than anything to be Elizabeth’s daughter.” She doesn’t mention being Grant’s wife. Was one relationship more pivotal than the other? Do you think this reflects the author’s views?

26. In your opinion, was this book realistic? Did parts of it seem more true to life than others?

27. Victoria’s life so easily could have had a different outcome. To your mind, who was the most instrumental in helping her have a fulfilling adulthood? Was it just one person?

28. Is this book an annual – something enjoyed for a season – or is it destined to be a perennial – something people come back to year after year?

29. Diffenbaugh said she wrote this book because she has strong feelings about the foster care system. What do you think her views are after reading this book? Do you think this book can make a difference in the foster care system? How?

30. In the end, Victoria answers the question Diffenbaugh posed – can someone who’s never been loved learn how to do so? Do you believe this is true or is it wishful thinking?

Other Resources

If you liked The Language of Flowers, try…

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Book Discussion Questions: The Submission by Amy Waldman

The Submission book cover

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

Title: The Submission
Author: Amy Waldman
Page Count: 299
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Issue-driven, dramatic, politically provocative

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.  Before you opened The Submission, what were your thoughts/feelings about reading what might be reductively termed a “9/11 book”?  Had you read others? Did your feelings change as you read and/or in retrospect?

2.  Was this a hard book to read? Did you enjoy it? Did it make you uncomfortable?

3.  When we present this book, we sometimes struggle with the fact that a quick summary doesn’t fully represent what the book is. How might you describe The Submission to others?

4.  One could argue that not much happens in this book – that it is a protracted debate. Is this accurate? Would you have wanted more to happen?

5.  Could you see this happening? Any development that strains credibility? Do you know of events that have unfolded similarly? (e.g., Maya Lin and Vietnam memorial, uproar over a mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero)

6.  If you had served on the jury, how would you have voted?

7.  Much of the power of this book comes from the multiple perspective narration. Were there specific characters’ stories in which you especially found yourself invested? Why do you think that is? Any in which you weren’t as interested? Did it change throughout the story?

8.  How would the book have been different if told from one perspective?

9.  Who would you say are the most central characters in this book – i.e. whose story is this?

10.  Mo hardly even thinks of himself as Muslim. Would it change the story if he were devout?

11.  To what extent do we consider the artist when we perceive or evaluate art? Does it/should it matter? Consider authors or actors or filmmakers.

12.  One of the big issues is that Mo refuses to offer reassurances. Should he have? Do you understand why he wouldn’t?

13.  In what ways are Mo and Asma perceived as “lesser Americans”? Do they perceive themselves this way? What is your personal reaction to this idea?

14.  How did you feel with the newspaper phrasing of Claire “sleeping with the enemy” and all that it implied?

15.  In what ways are the plot and characters affected by the juxtaposition of Ramadan?

16.  Do you think Asma regretted speaking out?

17.  Should Mo have been willing to change design?

18.  What struck you most about the public hearing? In what ways do the speakers and events of this single scene represent the themes of the book? Would you say the views are balanced?

19.  Think about the secondary characters, such as Yuki and Debbie. What do they contribute to the story?

20.  Are there villains in this story? Is everyone presented fairly?

21.  How is journalism as an institution portrayed? (Remember, Waldman herself is a journalist.) Do you agree that “people want to be told what to think” and/or that “people want to be told what they already think is right”?

22.  To which “submission” does the title refer?

23.  In terms of theme, Waldman is quoted in one interview as saying:

“The novel has a lot of different themes, but one is in the wake of 9/11, who do we trust?  How do we decide who to trust?  American Muslims, how do we think about them?  How do we understand Islam when there is so much fear and confusion around it?  And I think the ambivalence even many liberals have felt since 9/11 is how to feel about these things…[including wanting to be open but still very much afraid]”

Are these ideas explored effectively? Are there answers?

24.  What did you think about the ending? Did it surprise you? Could/should it have ended differently?

25.  This is Waldman’s first novel. Is that apparent?

26.  What is the problem with thinking of family members from 9/11 (or any tragedy) as a single group? Is there room to consider diversity of class, politics, age, faith and represent all fairly?

Other Resources:

If you liked The Submission, try…

Let the Great World Spin book cover