Archives for posts with tag: secrets

The All Good Books discussion group will meet online today, April 16, 2020, using Zoom at 7 PM. We’ll discuss Elizabeth Berg’s novel, The Confession Club.

Some potential discussion questions covering the first portion of the book follow (sorry, I didn’t find any discussion questions posted online and ran out of time to complete questions for the remainder of the novel).

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you compare “The Confession Club” with the other two Mason, Missouri novels by Elizabeth Berg (“The Story of Arthur Truluv” and “Night of Miracles”)?
  2. Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?
  3. Which confession from the novel was the most significant?
  4. Why did John leave Chicago?
  5. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be homeless? What are your thoughts?
  6. Iris driving back from getting “black cake” recipe supplies thinks, “All hope is in the early morning.” What does that mean to you?
  7. Explain why you think Joanie, a librarian, defaces a book she’s reading? She says, “you all know how I used to feel about people defacing books, but listen: It made it my book. It was me being me. I beat the hell out of that book, and it’s now the one that I love the best.”
  8. In her confession, Joanie quotes Samuel Pepys, “Saw a wedding in the church. It was strange to see what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition.” What does that mean to you? Why does Joanie quote it?
  9. When first introduced to the Confession Club, Joanie says, “Talking about things you’re ashamed of is nothing to be ashamed of.” To which Maddy replies, “…anyway, isn’t listening to things like that what good friends do for one another all the time?” Do you agree? Do you have friends you can tell anything to?
  10. What does “kissing the glass” mean and would you do it?
  11. “The things people throw away! Iris thinks. She’d like to go to the dump, too. She does have an eye for what’s worth salvaging, or her consignment store never would have done so well. She can spin the word vintage with the best of them. And she has always had a great deal of appreciation for the odd adventure.” Do you enjoy salvaging at flea markets, antique shops and consignment shops? What’s something you found that you were really excited about?
  12. Growing up we’re you taught that “Girls didn’t go after boys. Girls waited”? What does it mean and was that true when you were dating? Is it true now?
  13. Iris has “heard often enough that one should not give money to the homeless, that one should instead direct them to a shelter where they might get help. But a woman she worked with who routinely gave money to people on the street said something else. ‘Isn’t it hard enough for them to even ask?’ she said. ‘Do I really need to tell them what to do with their lives when I know absolutely nothing about them? I just feel an obligation to try to help in some way. What else can I do to help someone?’” Do you agree? Have you given money or meals to the homeless or referred them to shelters? Which do you think is best?
  14. In the novel, is a statement that “If there was anything Maddy learned after Arthur and Lucille took her in as a pregnant teenager, it was that families don’t have to be biological. She finds it hard to let go of the notion that you should matter to your father, though.” How did you react to that statement?
  15. In a conversation with Maddy, Iris says, “I’ve learned that blaming doesn’t get you far. Self-reflection helps. Trying to change helps, too. But it’s hard, Maddy, I’ll give you that. It’s hard, but I think it’s worth it to try. Sometimes little successes here and there can all of a sudden…I don’t know…consolidate, I guess, and you see that you really are a different person.” What were the circumstances of the conversation? Do your life experiences suggest that Iris is correct?
  16. In the novel, Maddy expresses concern that “if she spends too long with people, she will be found out.” What do you think she means and why does she have that fear?
  17. Iris envies Nola for “her default setting of goodwill toward man, beast, or weather.” Why does that approach to life seem so easy for children and so difficult as we age?
  18. Maddy reflects at one point on a conversation with Arthur while fishing about why people care what other people think. Arthur calls it a design flaw. What do you think?
  19. After a time of self-doubt, Maddy thinks “You can’t ask your children to save you. But they do it anyway.” Do you agree? How do our children save us?
  20. Why does John think that falling in love with Iris is bad news?
  21. Gretchen says “We’re all mean to our mothers. It’s a daughter’s duty.” Is that true? Why?
  22. Dodie suggests to Gretchen that she divorce her sons. Why and have you ever “divorce” someone mentally?
  23. Ollie cautions John about going back to someone he’s hurt in the past to make amends. She says, “I had a good friend practically fall apart when her husband came back to see her to make ‘amends.’ There she was all fine in a new relationship, and here he comes, waltzing back into her life, looking real good, all cleaned up, and it just threw her for a loop….He comes in and says, ‘I’m sorry,’ and that makes him feel all good about himself and then he leaves again….” What do you think about someone reentering someone’s life just to clear their conscience?
  24. How would you react if a close friend asked you to assist with his/her suicide? Would their age or health or pain level alter your response?
  25. What was your reaction to the novel’s ending? Expected? Was it a surprise? Were you disappointed? Or pleased?
  26. Which of the following best describes the novel? A roller coaster ride? A gentle float trip down a calm river? Walking through a corn maze? A Sunday afternoon drive down a known road? Running through a mine field with no mine detector?
  27. Would you recommend the book to a friend? If so, why or why not?

kell_9781101883075_are_all_r1.inddThe All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 7 PM to discuss “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly. Discussion questions will be posted soon.

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.”

The book club meets at the Mission Road Congregation of the Community of Christ, 7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS. Come and join the discussion.

The next meeting of the All Good Books discussion group will be on Thursday, November 9, 2017. We’ll discuss The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Obsession by Nora Roberts. The group will meet at 7 PM in the Church Library at the Community of Christ, Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas).

The following questions are offered as possible kick starters for the discussion of Ellen Rankin’s The Westing Game, first published in 1978. Questions for The Obsession will be posted later.

  1. One reviewer claimed that The Westing Game met the criteria for an excellent murder mystery because it included an unusual plot, “a nutso bunch of characters” and “more unexpected twists than you can count.” Agree or disagree? Explain why.
  2. The novel has been taught for over 30 years in elementary and middle schools while it also appealed to adults. Why do you think that’s the case? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?
  3. Many mystery novels provide only a single point of view. The Westing Game provided insight into the thoughts of most of the characters. Did that make the novel more interesting? More confusing? Would it have been better if you only had one point of view (a narrator or one participant)?
  4. On page 4, the author says the tenants in Sunset Towers include, “A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.” Which characters in the novel are identified by each label?
  5. On page 29, Sam Westing’s will reads, “My life was taken from me—by one of you!” What did he mean? Who took away his life?
  6. On page 31, Mr. Hoo says, “The poor are crazy, the rich just eccentric.” What does that mean to you?
  7. The novel includes 26 characters: Turtle Wexler, Angela Wexler, Grace Windsor Wexler, Theo Theodorakis, Chris Theodorakis, George Theodorakis, Catherine Theodorakis, Sandy (Alexander) McSouthers, Dr. Denton Deere, Otis Amber, Berthe Erica Crowe, Sydelle Pulaski, Flora Baumbach, Mr. Hoo, Madame Hoo, Sam Westing, Barney Northrup, Julian R. Eastman, Ed Plum, Sikes, Rosalie Baumbach, Violet Westing, Mr. Schultz, Shirley Staver, Alice Deere, Judge J.J. Ford.What do you know about each of them? Is there something about each person’s name that you found significant or symbolic?
  8. Why do you think Sam Westing (and the author) paired up specific heirs to compose the 8 teams at the reading of the will? The teams were: Madame Hoo and Jake Wexler, Turtle Wexler and Flora Baumbach, Chris Theodorakis and Dr. Denton Deere, Sandy McSouthers and J. J. Ford, Grace Wexler and Mr. Hoo, Berthe Crowe and Otis Amber, Theo Theodorakis and Doug Hoo, Sydelle Pulaski and Angela Wexler.
  9. Were there clues you picked up early in the book that helped solve the mystery? What were they?
  10. Why do you think Angela develops a rash on her ring finger?
  11. Why do you think the bomber set off the (first three) bombs?
  12. Did the Westing Game have anything to do with chess? Who was playing chess in the Game Room with Theo?
  13. Did “twins” have anything to do with the Westing Game?
  14. On page 68, why did Mrs. Wexler and Flora Baumbach indicate Turtle’s real name was, respectively, Tabitha-Ruth and Alice?
  15. Why do you think Judge J.J. Ford gave the entire $10,000 to Sandy the doorman? Does she ever realize what she’s done?
  16. On page 92, what does Grace mean by “English-speaking ears?” What issue does her behavior raise?
  17. On page 94, why do you think Sandy describes Mrs. Westing differently than Judge Ford remembers her (after meeting her briefly years earlier)? Judge Ford recalls that, “Mrs. Westing was white. Very white.” What does she mean?
  18. On page 99, Turtle tells Angela, “I didn’t look at your notes or clues, honest.” And then the author notes, “But she had removed the incriminating evidence.” What was the evidence?
  19. Why does Judge Ford consider Sam Westing a manipulative, mean man? Why does Sandy disagree?
  20. Are there secrets held by each of the 16 heirs that we haven’t discussed?
  21. On page 149, the will repeats, “It is not what you have, it’s what you don’t have that counts.” What was missing from the clues?
  22. How did Turtle’s habit of kicking people figure into solving the murder of Sam Westing?
  23. How did you react to the novel’s conclusion? Was it anticipated? A Surprise? Satisfying? Disappointing?
  24. Would you recommend The Westing Game to a pre-teen? To a teenager? To a young adult? To an adult? Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not?

Please come and join the discussion.