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The All Good Books group will meet this Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 7 PM to discuss Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. We’ll meet in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS). All are invited.

The following discussion questions are from the publisher’s website. If you haven’t finished the novel, beware: some spoilers follow.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. At the beginning of the novel, Madeline is enraged over Ziggy not being invited to Amabella’s birthday party. Why do you think Madeline becomes so angry about such a seemingly small injustice? Do you think Madeline is the kind of person who just looks for a fight, or do you think she was justified in feeling so upset? And do you think that by tackling both ends of the spectrum —from schoolyard bullying and parents behaving badly in the playground  to displays of domestic violence in all its incarnations—that the author is trying to say something about the bullying that happens out in the open every day?
  2. There is a lot of discussion about women and their looks.  On the beach Jane’s mom shows that she has rather poor body image.  Jane observes that women over 40 are constantly talking about their age.  And Madeline says, “She didn’t want to admit, even to herself, just how much the aging of her face really did genuinely depress her. She wanted to be above such superficial concerns. She wanted to be depressed about the state of the world….” [p. 82] Do you think this obsession with looks is specific to women, particularly women of a certain age?   Why or why not?
  3. There are a lot of scenes in which the characters say they wish they could be violent: Jane says she wants to throw Ziggy into the wall when he has a tirade in the bathtub, that she would hit Renata if she was in front of her, and then she stops just short of kicking Harper.  Do you think the author is trying to show the reader Perry’s side and have us sympathize with him? Or, rather, that feeling violent is a natural impulse but one that people learn to suppress?
  4. When Ziggy has to do his family tree, Madeline comments, “Why try to slot fractured families into neat little boxes in this day and age?” [p. 184] A lot of Madeline’s storyline is about the complications that arise from the merging of new modern families. What kind of problems exist among families and extended families now that didn’t when you were a child?
  5. When Jane recounts what happened the night she got pregnant, she focuses on what the man said rather than on what he did.  Why does Jane feel more violated by two words – fat and ugly—than by the actual assault?   Jane seems to think the answer is “Because we live in a beauty-obsessed society where the most important thing a woman can do is make herself attractive to men.” [p. 196] Do you agree?
  6. The power of secrets is a theme throughout the novel. Jane remembers, “She hadn’t told anyone. She’d swallowed it whole and pretended it meant nothing, and therefore it had come to mean everything.” [p. 220] Do you think this is a universal truth, that the more you keep something secret, the more power it takes on?
  7. Gwen, the babysitter, seems to be the only one to suspect what is going on with Celeste and Perry.  Celeste then realizes she’s never heard Gwen talk about a husband or a partner. Do you think the author intended to intimate that perhaps Gwen had had an abusive husband or partner and that she left him?  And in light of what happens at the end with Bonnie, do you think it’s only people who have personally experienced abuse who pick up on the signs?
  8. At one point Jane thinks she and Ziggy will have to leave Pirriwee because “rich, beautiful people weren’t asked to leave anywhere.” [p. 362] Do you think different rules apply to rich people? Do you think being rich allowed Perry to get away with things longer than would have been likely if he hadn’t had money?
  9. Bonnie says, “We see. We f**king see!” [p. 421] Were you surprised to learn about Bonnie’s history?  Were you surprised to discover that all along Max had been seeing what Perry was doing to Celeste?
  10. What did you make of the interview snippets to the reporter? Do you think the author used them almost like a Greek chorus to make a point?
  11. Madeline muses, “Maybe it was actually an unspoken instant agreement between four women on the balcony: No woman should pay for the accidental death of that particular man.  Maybe it was an involuntary, atavistic response to thousands of years of violence against women.  Maybe it was for every rape, every brutal backhanded slap, every other Perry that had come before this one.” [p. 430] And then Madeline thinks, “ Sometimes doing the wrong thing was also right.” Do you agree with this statement?  Do you agree with what the women decided to do?  Do you think there’s a stronger bond between women than there is between men?  Were you surprised that women who ostensibly didn’t like one another—Madeline and Bonnie, Madeline and Renata—ended up coming together to help one another out?
  12.  At one point in the book, Susi says that, in Australia, one woman dies every week because of domestic violence.  In the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.  Every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten.  Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than that caused by car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.  Are you surprised by these statistics? Why or why not?  Clearly, the author chose Celeste—the picture-perfect mom and/ wife as well as an educated lawyer—to be the victim of domestic violence in order to make a point.  Do you think it’s plausible that someone like her would fall victim to abuse such as this? 
  13. Madeline comments that “there were so many levels of evil in the world.” [p. 433] Discuss the implications of this statement in light of the novel and the novel’s different storylines.
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The All Good Books group will meet tonight (Thursday, November 9, 2017) to discuss both “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin and “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts. We’ll meet in the Church Library at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7:00 PM. Everyone is welcome!

Possible discussion questions for “The Westing Game” are posted online at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-westing-game-discussion-questions/
Possible discussion questions for “The Obsession” are listed below:
  1. At the age of almost 12 years old, could you have done what Naomi did?
  2. Wayne, the Sheriff’s Deputy, gives Naomi some juicy fruit gum (page 18) “And she would always, from that morning on, associate the gum with simple kindness.” Is there a smell or product that reassures you or brings to mind an event in your life, either pleasant or unpleasant?
  3. What’s your impression of Naomi’s Mom, Susan? Are you sympathetic or disgusted by her reactions to her husband’s crime (page 26)? Do you understand her reactions or are they incomprehensible?
  4. On page 140, Naomi says to Xander, “People don’t always know people close to them the way they think they do.” Do you believe the family of a criminal, like Thomas David Bowes, can truly be unaware of his crimes? Do you believe his wife, friends and fellow church members were unaware?
  5. There often seems to be, in popular literature and film, a character who is deeply, radically religious and has a dark, secret life that is anything but “Christian.” Do you believe that characterization is fair? Or realistic? Or possible?
  6. Do you believe a “killer gene” exists? Are some people wired from birth to be cruel, sadistic and/or murderers?
  7. There seems to be a theme throughout the novel, that people (society) never consider or are sympathetic to the plight of a criminal’s family. Is that accurate or justified? Have you ever considered the criminal’s family and if so, in what light?
  8. On page 52, the author describes Naomi this way: “She loved movies, and truth be told she liked movies like Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings more than the love stories her girlfriends sighed over. She liked movies where people had to do something, overcome something. Even if it meant getting bitten by a radioactive spider to do and overcome.” What kind of movies do you enjoy and seek out?
  9. On page 54-57, Mason and Naomi are discussing their father. How would you describe Thomas David Bowes?
  10. On page 58, the author states, “Living with Susan was like carrying around something delicate. You watched every step so you didn’t stumble, drop the delicate so it shattered.” Have you ever met someone like that? Why do you think Susan was so “fragile?”
  11. When talking about Susan’s secret visits to her husband in jail, Harry ( in conversation with Naomi) says “We’re going to stop lying to each other. I knew your mother was lying about going to the prison, about keeping in contact. I knew, and I kept it from Seth. I didn’t tell him because it would upset him. And that’s a lie. Omission is a lie.” Do you believe honesty is the best policy, always? Is an omission a lie?
  12. On page 79, a quote from Robert Frost states “Ends and beginnings—there are no such things. There are only middles.” What does that mean?
  13. On page 233, is a quote by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Where there is a great deal of light, the shadows are deeper.” What does that mean?
  14. Naomi states on page 240, “I’d say the person in the original image knows what’s true and what’s manipulated. That’s the thing about words and images. Once the words are on the page, the image printed, it becomes what’s true.” What does that mean? Do you agree?
  15. Was there a time during your reading of “The Obsession” that you considered various characters as Naomi’s stalker and the murder/rapist? Xander? Mason? Kevin? Sam Winston, the local Sheriff? John James Mooney (realtor) Anyone else?
  16. What was your favorite part of the book? Did you view it as a thriller? A romance novel? A murder mystery? Something else?
  17. There’s a great deal of focus in the novel on Naomi fixing up the old house. Any thoughts on the inclusion of so much remodeling and refinishing in the novel?
  18. Were you surprised by the ending of the novel? Was it satisfying? Too abrupt? Unexpected? Predictable?
  19. What is “The Obsession” of the novel’s title?