Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Katie Carr is a good person. She recycles. She's against racism. She's a good
doctor, a good mom, a good wife....well, maybe not that last one, considering
she's having an affair and has just requested a divorce via cell phone. But who
could blame her? For years her husband's been selfish, sarcastic, and
underemployed, writing the "Angriest Man in Holloway" column for their
But now David's changed. He's become a good person, tooreally
good. He's found a spiritual leader. He has become kind, soft-spoken, and
earnest. He's even got a homeless kid set up in the spare room. Katie isn't sure
if this is a deeply-felt conversion, a brain tumoror
David's most brilliantly vicious manipulation yet. Because she's finding it more
and more difficult to live with Davidand with herself.
In what ways are the notions of what it means to be "good"
explored in this novel? How do Katie and David Carr each representor
defythese notions? Discuss the role of
"goodness" in the couple's relationship to each other, their
children and their community.
Vocation plays a central role in the characterizations of both Katie and
David. Compare his work at the outset of the novel ("The Angriest Man
in Holloway" columnist) to her job (Katie Carr, GP). To what extent is
each defined by what they do? How does their relationship to their work
change as their marriage stumbles?
In what ways does economic class play into the theme of the novel? Compare
the Carr family's economic status to that of DJ Good News, their neighbors,
and the homeless kids. In what ways does each defy or exemplify class
stereotypes? Is the meaning of "goodness" reliant upon these
social and economic class distinctions?
The idea of guilt arises a number of times in the course of Katie's
thinking about her marriage and her parenting tactics. Does the novel
suggest that "good" behavior stemming from guilt is something less
than true goodness? Why or why not?
Discuss GoodNews' position in the Carr household. Is he an example of
"goodness"? Why or why not? What challenges does he offer them as
someone who lives outside of the societal norms they've built their lives
upon? Do you agree with his description of the "possessions game"
as something that makes people "lazy and spoiled and uncaring" (p.
127)? Why or why not?
The private and public lives of the Carrs are considered in some detail by
both of them. Katie muses, "One of the reasons I wanted to become a
doctor was that I thought it would be a goodas in
Good, rather than exciting...thing to do. I liked how it sounded...I thought
it made me seem just right. (p.8), while David demands the right to
"spin my version before you spin your version." Discuss ways in
which the characters' concerns for their public personas impact their
"When he's asleep, I can turn him back into the person I still
love," Katie says of her husband (p.11). "I can impose my idea of
what David should be, used to be, onto his sleeping form..." Contrast
the Carr's marriage before and after David's 'conversion.' In what ways do
both partners judge the evolution of the other? Is her desire for an
opportunity to "rebuild myself from scratch" realistic, or is it
How do Katie's decisionsas a wife, mother, and womanreflect
her struggle to maintain her identity as the threads of her marriage begin
to unravel? Identify the factors that lead to her infidelity. Is there a
"kind of person" who "conducts extramarital affairs"?
Who "moves out without telling her children?" Why or why not?
Discuss the role of spirituality in the novel. How is the family dynamic
changed by David's conversion to 'goodness?' Why are the Carrs inclined to
identify David's new persona with religiosity (p. 95-97)? Why does Katie
approach organized religion only after David has taken on his new persona?
Why does the act of reading and listening to music become a matter of
spiritual survival for Katie? She states, "Can I be a good person and
spend that much money on overpriced consumer goods? I don't know. But I do
know this: I'd be no good without them (p. 304). What does she mean by this?
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