Reading guide for Flesh & Blood by N. West Moss

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Flesh & Blood

Reflections on Infertility, Family, and Creating a Bountiful Life: A Memoir

by N. West Moss

Flesh & Blood by N. West Moss X
Flesh & Blood by N. West Moss
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    Oct 2021, 320 pages


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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. For millennia, women have been defined by their fertility. How do you think that history affects the author's view of herself and her illness?
  2. While the author is a private person, and our society has not often openly discussed miscarriage, hysterectomy, and infertility, we see her slowly sharing her experiences with her friends, and then even writing this book. What changed for the author? What does Moss gain by opening up? Do secrets ever serve a purpose?
  3. Despite the serious subject matter of the book, the author uses humor throughout. What effect does that have and how does she use humor to help navigate her illness?
  4. The author's relationship with her husband is central to this book. How did you feel about the way Moss describes that relationship, and the subtle ways that it changes and deepens over sorrow and joy, and over time?
  5. Why do you think Claude the praying mantis has as large a role in the book as he does? What does this tell you about what the author is experiencing? Did you connect in any way to Claude?
  6. "Women had warned me that I would become invisible at 50, that men would not want me or even see me, that the world would treat me as irrelevant," Moss writes, but it turns out this isn't particularly problematic for her. Is this something that resonates for you? What is your relationship to aging?
  7. There are moments in the book when the author feels let down by the medical establishment. How do you think doctors could more effectively "see" their patients? What role does compassion play in medicine?
  8. Mothers and daughters run throughout this book. What strength does the author draw from the women in her family?
  9. Moss discovers that with illness there is a before and an after, and her outlook changes. If you have been seriously ill, were you reshaped by the experience?
  10. How has Moss created her legacy? Do you think we all have a drive to leave something of ourselves in this world?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Algonquin 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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