Reading guide for Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

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A Novel

by Bradley Somer

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer X
Fishbowl by Bradley Somer
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2015, 304 pages
    Nov 2016, 304 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

About the Book

A goldfish named Ian is falling from the 27th floor balcony on which his Fishbowl sits. He's longed for adventure, so when the opportunity arises, he escapes from his bowl, clears the balcony railing and find s himself airborne. Plummeting toward the street below, Ian witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents. There's the handsome grad student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; the construction worker who feels trapped by a secret; the building's super who feels invisible and alone; the pregnant woman on bed rest who craves a forbidden ice cream sandwich; the shut-in for whom dirty talk, and quiche, are a way of life; and home-schooled Herman, a boy who thinks he can travel through time.

Though they share time and space, they have something even more important in common: each faces a decision that will affect the course of their lives. Within the walls of the Seville are stories of love, new life, and death, of facing the ugly truth of who one has been and the beautiful truth of who one can become. Sometimes taking a risk is the only way to move forward with our lives. As Ian the goldfish knows, "An entire life devoted to a Fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had."

Bradley Somer's Fishbowl is at turns funny and heartbreaking and you will, no doubt, fall in love with his unforgettable characters.

Discussion Questions
  1. Fishbowl has an eclectic cast of characters. Did you feel a connection with any particular character or char acters? Were you at all surprised by who you found most relatable? Did your opinions evolve as the novel progressed?
  2. In Fishbowl , each character's storyline influences the others. What do the interacting character arcs say about the randomness of life, the existence of fate/destiny, or the possibility of both working together? Do you think the book advocates any one of these over the other?
  3. Why do you the think the author chose to include a goldfish as a character? Do you think it was a successful choice?
  4. In the second chapter, Ian the goldfish is purportedly "a vital thread that ties humanity together." What does this mean and how does Ian fulfill this role?
  5. Katie's "superpower" is described as the ability for her to fall quickly and deeply in love. Did you find her character relatable, sympathetic, or naive? By the end of the novel, how is Katie changed by her experiences with Connor and Faye? What is Connor's "superpower"?
  6. The Seville on Roxy is both a setting, and in a way, a character. How is this setting relevant as a device when reflecting on the idea "no single person lives their own life; we all live each other's together"? Through Herman's storyline, how does The Seville on Roxy stand as a symbol for the passage of time?
  7. On page 53, we learn of two differing philosophies on living. Troy the snail believes that "an unadventurous life will secure one an impressively long life," while Ian decides that "an entire life devoted to a Fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had." Which do you believe? How do the characters in the novel act out these philosophies?
  8. Fishbowl examines the interconnectivity of people's lives, the fallibility of memory and the malleability of time. How does the structure of the book's narrative contribute to these themes?
  9. Is the ending of the novel satisfying? Is there anything you would have changed?
  10. What was your experience reading Fishbowl? Did it take time to get into? Were there any parts you enjoyed more than others? Did you take away a specific feeling or lesson after you completed the book? If so, what was it?

Book Club Report

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of St. Martin's Griffin. 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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