Act III (Sunday) Discussion Questions

Note: Page references are to the hardcover edition.

p. 143 John Peter has a dental crisis, but the show must go on. When an actor or entertainer doesn’t feel well, they still have to work because it costs too much money (and other people’s jobs) to cancel the show. What entertainers do you know who have performed even though they were very sick? Hint: Justin Bieber

p. 163-175 Elizabeth describes in great detail how she felt going to her mother’s funeral. She meets Mrs. Woolf, her mother’s caretaker, whom Elizabeth does not initially like. Later Elizabeth realizes Mrs. Woolf has overcome a very big challenge, yet she is very kind and supportive to her. What do we know about people we love? What makes an impression on us? Have you ever discovered something about a friend or relative that was really surprising? What do you know about your family? What would you like to know if you could ask any question?

p. 163-175 Anna Larsen lived with Isla Woolf. Did you know: Ilsa Woolf is the eponymous protagonist of Madeleine’s second novel? What do you think her story is?

p.174 Why is Mrs. Woolf so strong? What has Elizabeth learned that she can apply to her own life, whenever she encounters difficult obstacles? Hint: “discipline, patience and courage”

p.174 Elizabeth tells this story to Ben which draws her closer to him. Have you ever shared a painful memory with a close friend? How did it make you feel? How did your friend react? Would you do it again?

p.188-189 Information is power. Everybody is prying into each other’s lives and gossiping about it. It’s making some of the characters feel vulnerable and exposed, especially Elizabeth. Folks are reporting where they last saw somebody and with whom and are drawing conclusions. Do you ever feel vulnerable when people learn something about you (or think they did) and use the information in a way that you hadn’t planned? If you were famous, how would you stop them? Hint: you can’t, so be careful with what you share.

p. 190 Dottie is spreading rumors about Elizabeth and Ben deliberately to ruin their friendship. Has anyone done that to you? Did you ever spread a rumor that you later regretted? Did the characters react well to the news?

p. 191-197 Kurt uses certain tactics to get Elizabeth to go to Irving’s with him. What are they? (Hint: shaming, bullying, putting her down). Have you ever had a friendship with someone who wanted to control you and deliberately kept a power imbalance? Have you ever dated anyone who always had to be in charge or wanted you to change? How did you feel about the relationship and about yourself after it happened?

p. 202-203 The question of whether it is ethical to try to date someone who is involved with someone else is raised again, when Kurt tells Elizabeth you can’t help falling in love with anyone. (It was first raised when Elizabeth tells Ben the story of her mom leaving her father for another man while they were married). Can you? Is it fair to go after someone who is already attached? Where and when do you draw the line in love? Is there a line when love is concerned, though you know someone will get hurt?

Slang Terms

Getting stewed
Cow’s parsley (Queen Anne’s Lace)
Louses (n. p.190)
Getting a tiny bit tight
Bobbing around (reference to dancing)


Inhibitions (p.180) Persuasive (p.191) Malaguena (p.198)
Typing (p. 146) * on a typewriter Chagrin (p.192) Maeterlinck symbol (p.199)
Psychosis (p.141) Pox (p.193) Shavian (p.199)
Liverish (p.150) Inflection (p.193) Prophetic (p.200)
Telegram (p.164) Enigma (p.193) Straggle (p.201)
Illimitable (p.170) Cadaverous (p.195) Rhumba (p.202)
Boardinghouse (p.174) Dipsomaniac (p.195) Foxtrot (p.202)
Impoverished (p.174) Excruciatingly (p.196) Waltz (p.202)
Stifling (p.183) Pallor (p.195) Victrola (p.202)
Feeble (p.183) Inverted (p.195) Marbleized (p.202)
Pocket watch (p.183) Samba (p.197) Glimmering (p.205)
Motley (p.184) Ramrod (p.197) Bifurcated (p.205)
Defame (p.189) Supple (p.197) Soppingly (p.205)
Cordial (p. 189) Writhed (p.197)