Thursday, August 14, 2008

Or you can just read the novel and never talk about it.

My publisher, VHP, asked me to write some book group questions for my novel. I was nervous at first, but after re-reading the novel, they just came pouring out. Here they are:

1. This is a “fish out of water” story in that Norma steps from a familiar world into a new one. In what ways do Norma’s home life and college life contrast?

2. Upon moving into the dorms, Norma is immersed in a culture of “partying.” Is this a culture that’s familiar to you? Are all college dorms essentially similar? Do you see this culture as a “normal” coming-of-age experience or as a dangerous problem?

3. Given that Norma realizes Jack is probably seeing other women—and that he doesn’t spend a lot of time with her—why is she so attached to him? Why does she become attached to Chuck? In what ways are Jack and Chuck similar and different?

4. This novel, in part, is about the challenges and allure of freedom. What is your definition of freedom? In what ways is Norma free and not free? What are the benefits and drawbacks of freedom?

5. In what ways do Norma and her mother connect? In what ways do they conflict? Does Norma’s relationship with her mother seem familiar or unfamiliar to you?

6. Several novels are mentioned in this one, such as Fear of Flying and Go Ask Alice. What role do novels and reading play in this novel?

7. Norma often reflects upon society’s portrayal of, judgments about and expectations of women in terms of sex, sexuality, appearance, behavior, and relationships. What are some examples in the novel? What is Norma grappling with in terms of gender roles?

8. There are many distinctive characters in For the May Queen. Who’s your favorite character in the novel, and why?

9. At the novel’s opening, Norma and Billy sing “Stairway to Heaven,” which includes the lyric, “It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.” Look up the complete lyrics for this Led Zepplin song. Why do you think the novel is titled For the May Queen?

10. Weddings and marriage are a recurring motif in this novel, such as Suzy’s wedding plans, the marriage of Diana to Prince Charles, and the soap opera wedding of Luke and Laura. What role does this theme play in the book? What is Norma grappling with when she thinks about marriage?

11. Did you figure out before Norma did the secrets of Stacy and Chuck—or were the revelations a surprise to you? When you look back on the novel, what clues might foreshadow these revelations?

12. Did you like the last chapter of the novel? Why or why not?
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