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Reading guide for The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

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The Girls with No Names

by Serena Burdick

The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick X
The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick
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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Do you believe Effie's heart condition was a strength or weakness? How did this condition affect her relationships? How do you view Effie's attachment to her sister versus her attachment to her mother?
  2. Do you resent Luella, or blame her for what happened? What societal conventions was she fighting against, and do you think as she was justified in this fight? Were her actions selfish, or defensible?
  3. Jeanne's relationship to Effie was complex, ranging from clingy to detached. What do you think her psychological state of mind was raising a child she was told would not survive? How do you think a mother might cope living year to year in this unknown? How did this affect Jeanne's relationship with Luella and her husband Emory?
  4. Jeanne's tolerance for her husband's treatment of her angered her daughters. They saw her as weak, a woman taking what she was given instead of fighting back. For Jeanne, surviving in a loveless marriage was a strength far greater than her daughters could recognize. How do you feel about this? Do you think it took more strength to stay or leave?
  5. What were Emory's core values as a wealthy man living at the turn of the nineteenth century? Why do you think he chose a strong, suffragette to have an affair with? Was it pure lust, or was there something else he was seeking in her?
  6. How did you feel about the Romani community and the role they played in the girl's lives? Do you believe they would have, at that time, so willingly accepted them? How do you feel about the difference between the way Jeanne felt toward the Romani and the way Effie and Luella felt about them?
  7. What do you think about Effie's decision to commit herself to the House of Mercy? Did you expect her to find her sister there, or did you think she was making a mistake?
  8. Had you ever heard of The House of Mercy? What are your thoughts on institutions like these, and do you think the Sister's believed they were helping these girls? 9. When Mable drops her baby in the river, did you see this coming, and did you believe the baby was already dead? Her actions aren't justifiable, but given the circumstances and what she suffered witnessing her mother's death, were they understandable?
  9. Mable and Etta used Effie for their own escape. How do you feel about this? Do you think it was a matter of survival, or was it a character flaw in each of them? Is Mable a likeable character at this point? What do you think it takes for someone in her circumstances to stand up to abuse and injustice?
  10. Effie and Mable become dependent on each other for their survival. Did this feel like a genuine friendship, or one of pure necessity? What did they see in each other? What needs did their unlikely friendship fulfill?
  11. In the end, how did the reunion between Luella and Effie make you feel? Were you angry with Luella, or forgiving? Did you think Effie would survive, or were you expecting her inevitable death?
  12. Why did Jeanne help Mable? Should Mable have owned up for what she had done? Or had she suffered enough by this point in the story?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Park Row Books. 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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