The Jealous Kind
On its surface, life in 1950s Houston is as you’d expect; stoic fathers, restless teens, drive-in movies, and souped-up Cadillacs. But underneath that surface lies a world shifting under high school junior Aaron Holland Broussard’s feet. The underlying class war between the haves and have nots is growing steadily, along with the menace of conflict overseas in Korea, providing a harrowing backdrop to his growth to manhood. But when Aaron spots the beautiful Valerie Epstein at a drive-in, he steps in when he sees her fighting with her boyfriend, Grady Harrelson. Aaron’s newfound confidence helps catch Valerie’s eye, and the two begin dating. Grady is a live wire though, and presents a looming problem for Aaron.
You will recall the feelings and inspirational power of your first love, and empathize with Aaron’s extraordinary challenges to protect himself and the ones he loves in “this dark, atmospheric story” (Publishers Weekly). The Jealous Kind illustrates how first loves, friendship, violence, and power can alter what traditional America means for the people trying to find their way in a changing world.
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Book Cover Image (jpg): The Jealous Kind
Mass Market Paperback 9781501107412
Author Photo (jpg): James Lee Burke
Photograph by James McDavid(0.1 MB)
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Reading Group Guide
In 1952, Houston, Texas, is as much a city of souped-up pink convertibles and Friday-night ice cream dates as it is a backdrop for violent class warfare and horrendous crime. As seventeen-year-old Aaron Holland Broussard discovers, offending the wrong person—in this case, Grady Harrelson, the son of one of Houston’s wealthiest men—can have deadly consequences. When Aaron gets between Grady and his girlfriend, the beautiful Valerie Epstein, he sets off a chain of events involving the darkest elements of Houston’s criminal underworld—a trajectory that tests his courage, honor, and capacity for violence.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. How does Burke’s portrayal of postwar Houston challenge or complement your preconceived notions about this time period?
2. In the opening scene of The Jealous Kind, Burke writes, “My experience with the jellyfish seemed to characterize my life. No matter how sun-spangled the day might seem, I always felt a sense of dange see more