Reading guide for His Favorites by Kate Walbert

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His Favorites

by Kate Walbert

His Favorites by Kate Walbert X
His Favorites by Kate Walbert
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2018, 160 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 11, 2019, 160 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How is the epigraph from Willa Cather's My Mortal Enemy, "But you may have a past already? The darkest ones come early," a fitting opening for His Favorites?
  2. Jo describes the golf course as "all of it designed for entrapment" (page 10). What other places and situations in the novel seem built to ensnare? How so?
  3. What do you think Jo's mother is feeling after the accident? And after Jo is accepted at Hawthorne? What drives her choices for herself and for Jo?
  4. Many of Jo's memories of Hawthorne, outside of Master, involve Charlotte P. and Cynthia. What do they each mean to Jo? How do they bookend her experiences at Hawthorne?
  5. Discuss the techniques Master uses to groom Jo and manipulate her circumstances at Hawthorne to his advantage. Why is he successful at Hawthorne? Why does no one intervene?
  6. Why does Cynthia's punishment at the train tracks affect Jo so much? Why didn't she stop it earlier? Why does Lucy tell Jo that "you have to learn the rules" (page 126)? What rules, and whose?
  7. Jo makes a friend in the weight room, Alex, who suggests she move off campus to the International House. Do you think she followed his advice? Why is this scene included and what is Alex's importance to the story?
  8. Jo wishes she could "stand in front of Buddy and hear him speak his judgment of me, the truth. I wanted to hear him call me a murderer" (page 132). What would hearing that from Buddy mean to Jo? What is she seeking?
  9. On page 88, memory is defined as "another draft of a story"—what is the meaning of this? How is the idea of memory woven throughout the story?
  10. Finally, it's revealed that Jo is telling this story to an investigator. Who did you imagine she might be speaking to throughout the narrative? How did the shifts in perspective and tense affect your reading of Jo's story?

Enhance Your Book Club

  1. Read The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, the short story itself or the complete story collection, by Alan Sillitoe. Discuss why it might have meant so much to Cynthia, and to Jo later in life.
  2. His Favorites closes with the image of Jo and Stephanie, two young girls climbing a magnolia tree, "inching out on a limb they believe would not dare to break beneath the weight of them" (page 149). What does the tree evoke for the reader? What are some other trees used as metaphors in literature?


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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