October 18, 2011 at 10:29 am , by Ladies' Lounge
Today’s post comes from leading book club resource Donna Paz Kaufman of Reading Group Choices. “There is so much we learn from the characters in books, and many stories involve circumstances we will all deal with at some point in our lives.”
This month’s LHJ Book Club pick, The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass, tells the story of Percy Darling, a man dealing with his grief after the loss of his wife, and how it influences his relationships and decisions. When he decides to offer the use of his barn to a trendy preschool, he goes through yet another major life transition that brings his choices into question.
Ask your book club members to relate a story of someone they know who has lost a spouse and what they have learned by observing how the widow/widower handled the life transition. Sharing our personal experiences can be interesting and even therapeutic!
Here are some conversation starters to use when a character’s choices are curious or controversial. Some discussion questions relating to the The Widower’s Tale readers’ guide are in italics to help your book club dig into this book—find more here.
Describe the character’s perspective
How do they hear, see, and perceive the situation? Talk about the baggage they might be carrying to this situation and how their view of the situation may be clouded.
How do Percy’s age, background, and profession shape the way he thinks about the world? How does the way he sees himself differ from the way other characters see him? How has being a single father and now an involved grandfather defined him? How do you think he would have been a different father and man had Poppy lived?
Identify the choices
There are usually a variety of choices we can make when faced with a decision. Does the character see and consider them all?
Why do you think Percy chose to avoid romantic or sexual involvement for so many years after Poppy’s death? Why do you think he falls so suddenly for Sarah after all that time alone? Why now?
Observe the style of decision-making
By our nature, some of us are spontaneous and impulsive, others analytical and methodical — and there are all points in between. How does the character make decisions? Is this pattern consistent for the character throughout the novel? How does the character’s decision-making style lead to positive or negative outcomes?
By the end of the novel, how has Percy changed/evolved? Do you find his evolution believable? Why or why not?
Identify the consequences
Whatever is decided, other actions and situations follow. Talk about how life unfolds for the characters because of the choices they’ve made. Which consequences are predictable — and which come as a surprise?
What about Percy’s relationship with Clover? What do you think about his “sacrifice” of the barn to help her out? Is it entirely altruistic? What are the unintended consequences of their love for each other? Why does Clover resent her father and betray both him and her nephew, Robert, at the end of the novel?
What would you do?
In a similar situation, how do you think you would react, and what would you decide to do? How would you approach the options and make a decision?
This is a novel about family, the intricacies of the intertwining relationships among parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings and cousins, in-laws and romantic partners. Discuss and compare some of the central familial relationships here (particularly those between Percy and the various members of his extended clan). Do any of these relationships ring particularly true to your own family experiences? Which ones fascinate or move you the most?
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