by Jonathan Franzen
- Why isn't Patty's "autobiography" written in the first person? How would it be different if it were?
- Why doesn't Jessica have her own chapter? How is our relationship to her affected by the fact that we never see anything specifically from her point of view?
- Should we make anything of the fact that the two sets of siblings – Joey, Jessica, Jonathan, and Jenna – all have names that start with "J"? Are we supposed to align them in some way? Or perhaps it sets them apart from Connie?
- Try to imagine Joey and Jessica twenty years after the book ends. Are they happy? Successful? Do they have kids? What are their relationships with their kids like? What is their relationship to each other like? When they remember their parents, do they think of them positively or negatively?
- Imagine that Patty, after writing her autobiography, sits with Walter, tells him about her writing project, and lets him read it. In other words, he still reads about her affair with Richard, about her doubts of their marriage, etc., but he reads it because she asks him to, not because Richard forces him to. How do you think he reacts? Does he still kick her out of the house? Or does he respect and appreciate her honesty and forgive her?
- Could this book have taken place during any other time period? Or is there something unique about this past decade? Try to reframe the narrative with historical events from the 1910s, or 1940s, or 1970s.
- In the book, Richard records a solo album called Songs for Walter. Since we can't know what the songs sound like, let's imagine he made him a playlist instead. What songs do you think he might put on it? What about a playlist from Richard to Patty? From Walter to Patty?
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