Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Club Forum #6: The Condition

Book Selection Status: READ
Month: August 2010
Genre: Fiction Literature:
Book of the Month: The Condition
Author: Jennifer Haigh
Question source:

Discussion Questions:

1. Discuss the significance of the book's title. What else might it refer to other than Gwen's Turner's syndrome?

2. In what ways does Gwen's condition reverberate throughout the McKotch family? What do Frank and Paulette's differing opinions about how to treat Gwen's condition reveal about their personalities and also about their relationship?

3. Paulette and Frank's marriage was rife with misunderstandings on both sides. Was one person more to blame than the other for their break-up? Of the two, who did you find to be more sympathetic? Why does Billy blame his father for the divorce?

4. What was your impression of Paulette? Do you suppose the author meant for her to be a likeable character?

5. Discuss Paulette's relationship with Donald and her infatuation with Gil Pyle. What did Paulette find in her relationship with Donald that she did not with Frank?

6. Frank often compares his working-class background in a Pennsylvania mining town with Paulette's pedigreed family, musing that everything comes down to upbringing. How does his children's upbringing affect the paths they take in life? Was Frank a bad father, as Paulette seemed to believe?

7. On the surface the three McKotch children are extremely different. In what ways, if any, are they alike?

8. Why does Gwen distance herself from her family both physically and emotionally? Why does she ultimately decide to forgive Rico and Scott but not her mother?

9. Do you agree with Paulette's decision to send Scott to St. Raphael to bring Gwen home? Why is it so difficult for Paulette to believe that a man might be attracted to Gwen? Is she merely being a protective mother?

10. Gwen ends up living on St. Raphael, worlds away from her isolated life in Pittsburgh and Concord before that. What does she find on the Caribbean island that she hasn't anywhere else? Why does she reconcile with Rico?

11. What prompts Billy to finally reveal to his family that he's gay? How do Paulette and Frank each react to the news?

12. By the time the family reconvenes at the Captain's House, what realizations has Scott come to about his life—professionally and romantically, as well as his role as a father? In what ways have the others changed by the time of the reunion?

13. Sense of place is an important theme in The Condition. How do the opening scenes at the Captain's House set the tone for the rest of the novel? What do the main characters' living spaces, from Paulette's 200-year-old Concord house to Billy's meticulously decorated New York City apartment, reveal about them?

14. What do you suppose the future holds for the five members of the McKotch family?

15. Jennifer Haigh unfolds the narrative from the alternating perspectives of Frank, Paulette, and their three children. In what ways did this enhance your reading of the story?

16. Overall, what are your thoughts about the way the author presents the McKotches? Did you find their story to be a realistic and believable one?