Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- "She peered into the mirror. Tonight she would wear long
earrings of pink Lucite. She would put her lenses back in and use a
lipstick that didn't clash with the Lucite, and that would be that.
Seen from a certain angle, she might simply disappear" (page 8).
How would you characterize Linda's self-image at age fifty-two? What
events and circumstances in her life have contributed to Linda's sense
of self and, in particular, to her impulse toward self-effacement?
- Speaking about love, Linda says, "I believe it to be the
central drama of our lives. For most of us, that is.... It's something
extraordinary that happens to ordinary people." Do you agree? To
what extent is love the central drama of your life? Of the lives of
the people around you?
- What is the significance of Linda's success as a poet? How does it
color Thomas's response to her when they meet again at the writers'
- Linda and Thomas feel an abiding passion for each other over many
years. And yet Linda is also deeply in love with Vincent; her marriage
to him was ostensibly happy and of profound importance to her. Do you
believe it's possible to be passionately in love with two people at
the same time?
- Discuss Linda's relationship with her children. Do you consider her
a good mother? Is there more she could or should have done to help
Marcus? Why does Linda feel that every conversation with one's child,
even one's adult child, must be a "mix of truth and lies"
- Why is Thomas ambivalent about living in Kenya? How and why is his
response to Africa different from Linda's? From Regina's?
- Linda and Thomas have very different family backgrounds. Why is the
teenage Thomas immediately drawn to Linda when she walks into his high
school English class? Why, soon after, is she drawn to him? Is this a
case of opposites attracting?
- Thomas's most celebrated collection of verse is entitled The
Magdalene Poems. Why do you think he chose this title?
- How do you interpret the novel's ending? Identify passages
throughout the novel that might have prepared you for what is fully
revealed only at the very end of the book.
Copyright 2002 by Time Warner Bookmark
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Back Bay Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.