Flirting with Pete
Although Casey never met him, she held an oblique hope that someday her father might acknowledge her. She watched from afar as the illustrious Dr. Cornelius Unger became a celebrated psychologist and teacher. Through it all, she clung to the illusive dream that someday he might take notice of her -- and now it is too late.
It comes as a shock when she learns that he has left her his beautiful townhouse in Boston's exclusive Beacon Hill. Sensing that her father had an ulterior motive in leaving her the house, Casey searches the house and finds the first part of what could be a novel, a journal, or a case study for one of her father's clients. The manuscript tells the harrowing story of a young woman named Jenny who was sexually abused by her father and emotionally abused by her mother. When her mother was murdered, her father was sent to prison. After only six years in jail, he is about to be released, and Jenny knows she has to escape. Her way out appears in the form of a man named Pete who shows up on his motorcycle and offers to whisk her away.
Convinced the story is true, Casey sets out to find the rest of the pages and help Jenny. With the discovery of each additional segment, she learns more about Jenny, about herself, and about Cornelius Unger. The manuscript, when fully assembled, proves to be the key to understanding not only her father's past but also that of the man Casey has come to love.
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Reading Group Guide
1) What was your experience reading a novel that has such a unique format? How did the story within a story -- Jenny's story -- affect the pacing and the structure of Casey's story? How might the story have been different had it been told in a linear narrative, or from one point of view?
2) "But what do I do with the anger, if there's no one left to blame?" This quote comes from Joyce, one of Casey's patients. But how might it inform our reading of Casey herself? Why does Casey seem so incapable of letting go of the anger that she feels for her father? Although she is a therapist, does she sometimes seem unaware of her own emotions and motivations? What is it about the house in Beacon Hill that seems to finally break through her wall of anger?
3) On page 130, as Casey talks of one of her client's "Imposter complex", she says, "So, here she is, solidly in the black, doing better each year, and still feels like those restaurants are a deck of cards on the verge of collapse. Her parents see her that way. It's been ingrained in her." To what extent do characters in this story seem unable to break free of their past?
4) Parental judgment and familial conflict certainly play a key role in Fliritng With Pete -- there isn't a single character who isn't in some way damaged by the way that he or she was raised, although the experiences and the damage varies. In what ways do the childhood experiences of the cha see more