Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
A Family Daughter is the story of four
generations of Santerres. Discuss the evolving parent-child
relationships within each generation.
Discuss the themes of resurrection and resilience in
the novel. Consider incidents such as Abby and Jamie's relationship,
Saffron's baby, Margot's affair, and the family reunion at the end of
the novel. What drives each character to overcome tragedy and adversity?
Why do you think the focus of the book, with the
exception of Jamie, is on the women of the Santerre family? What is
Yvette's role as family matriarch?
When thinking of the photographer, Yvette realizes
that although they never had an affair, she and Teddy "had used him to
make each other unhappy, and they were still using him." Do other
characters use similar devices to hold grudges against each other?
Discuss the theme of sex and physical attraction in
the novel. How does it influence each character in life-altering ways?
Which characters use sex for comfort, and which use sex for power?
Following her father's death, Abby doesn't want
contact with any of her family members except Jamie. Is this because
he's closer to her age, or does she not feel comfortable with the rest
of her family? Are they the only two members of the family who truly
know and understand each other?
What do you think of Abby's decision to move from one
"taboo" relationship to another? Is Abby drawn to older authority
figures because her father died, or does she really love Peter? Abby
tells Peter "I'm a different person with you and with my family . . ."
Is this true? When do you think Abby is happiest?
Why does Abby decide to write a novel so similar to
her own story? Is this merely a cathartic exercise, or does she want her
family to know about her affair with Jamie? Why doesn't the family seem
too concerned about the incestuous relationship in Abby's book? Do they
think it's fictional, or are they too afraid to ask if it's true? How
does each character react to the way they're portrayed in the book?
Each character has a personal secret they keep from
the others. Which characters do this to protect their family, and which
characters keep secrets to protect themselves?
What role does guilt play in each character's life?
Consider the Abby-Jamie relationship, Margot's adultery, Clarissa and
Henry's divorce, and Yvette's decision to leave her family in Canada.
Yvette and Teddy raised their three children
Catholic, but only Margot grew up to raise her children Catholic, as
well. Why do you think this is? How would Clarissa and Jamie be
different if they were religious? How would their children differ?
How are the members of the Santerre family affected
by the various outsiders -- Saffron, Martin, Fauchet, Katya -- who pass
in and out of their lives? What qualities do these supporting characters
have that the Santerres lack?
How does the novel's unusual structure --
alternating chapters told from many different points of view --
strengthen the story? Why is it so important for this particular novel
that we read almost every character's point of view?
If you've read both Liars and Saints and
A Family Daughter:
A Family Daughter presents a different version
of the Santerre family's history. How do these two versions differ? What
are the differences between the Liars and Saints version of the
truth and the A Family Daughter version of the truth (i.e., the
identity of Jamie's mother; the details of Margot's family life; the
deaths of Abby, Henry, Yvette, Teddy)? What reasons do you think the
author had for presenting two different versions of this core story?
Are some of the characters' personalities different
from book to book? If so, why do you think that is? Are their
personalities different because the events in their lives are
different, or are the events in their lives different because their
personalities are different?
What truths and relationships are constant between
the two books? How is their constancy significant to your reading of the
Reading the two books together raises interesting
questions about the nature of "truth" and its relationship with fiction.
Do you think of one of these stories as the "real" story and one as made
up? If so, why do you think that is, considering that, as novels, both
stories are clearly fiction? Is your answer influenced by the order in
which you read the two books?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Scribner.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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