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Reading Guide for Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

Oh William!

Amgash Series #3

by Elizabeth Strout

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout X
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Why have Lucy and William stayed in each other's lives? Did you find yourself wishing they would get back together? How, if at all, did that feeling change over the course of the book?
  2. Compare and contrast Lucy's marriages to William and to David. How does she characterize each relationship? How does each man complement her in a different way?
  3. What does Lucy learn about herself through her relationship with William? What have you learned about yourself through your relationships with others?
  4. Discuss Lucy's relationship with her mother-in-law, Catherine. What does the story about Catherine getting rid of the coat Lucy loved say about their relationship? Did your opinion of Catherine change as you learned more about her past? If so, how? If not, why not?
  5. How were Lucy and William influenced by their parents' trauma? How were Lucy and William's daughters influenced by their parents' trauma? Do you think there's a way to stop this cycle?
  6. "I have never really understood the whole class business in America, because I came from the very bottom of it, and when that happens it never really leaves you," Lucy says. How do the themes of class and money appear throughout the book?
  7. Lucy says of William, "When I really cried hard he did not get frightened the way I think David might have; but with David I never cried as I had in my first marriage, not the gasping sobs of a child." Discuss this. Why do you think Lucy cried more with William?
  8. "I began to feel a weird sense of something," Lucy says about her wedding to William. "It is very hard to describe but it felt a little bit like things were not entirely real." Why do you think Lucy felt this way? Have you ever experienced a feeling like this?
  9. Despite being a well-known writer, Lucy describes feeling invisible "in the deepest way." Discuss her feelings. Does she ever stop feeling this way? Who in her life makes her feel visible?
  10. Lucy says she couldn't really have a home without William, but William could have a home without her. What do you think she means by this? To deny her husband the chance of comforting her, Lucy says, was "an unspeakably awful thing." Explain what she means by this. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  11. At the close of the book, Lucy says, "We do not know anybody, not even ourselves. Except a little tiny, tiny bit we do." What do you make of this statement? Have you found it to be true in your life?
  12. How did you feel about Lucy and William by the end of the book?

Download the full reading guide, including a letter from Elizabeth Strout and more.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Random House. 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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