Reading Group Guide
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A Good Man
"A Good Man
came about when my nephew Grant complained that there were more jerks in my books than good guys. I did a mental survey and realized this was not true. But in many ways the jerks just seem to stand out more and, in books as in real life, take up a lot of space. But I did take Grant's observation to heart, and a worthy but underappreciated man became the catalyst for this novel."
-- Judith Henry Wall Questions for Discussion
1. How did you feel about Rhonda's flirtation on the airplane? Were you shocked when she agreed to see Michael Forester once again? What did she take away from the encounter at the hotel?
2. The women each have vastly different relationships with their husbands. Explore these differences as presented through their actions and thoughts. Do they share any similarities?
3. Rhonda decides to earn some "good-wife points" before broaching the subject of a trip to New York with two high school girlfriends and suggests a romantic excursion aboard the Texhoma Belle. Do you believe this is common strategy for wives? Do husbands ever think of marriage in terms of a point system?
4. Describe Rhonda and Terry's relationship as high school sweethearts. What are the main things that motivate each of them? How does Rhonda truly view Terry and vice versa? Do you think they could have had a successful marriage?
5. Do you agree with Gina Kay's decision to marry Terry? Why or why not? How does the relationship between Terry and Gina Kay compare to that between Rhonda and Terry? What attributes does Gina Kay gain and/or lose throughout her marriage and as a mother?
6. Holly experiences conflict involving her family and her career life. Discuss her situation and choices. Do you think she made the right decision when she married Sandy and later when she decided to decline Jerry Winston's offer to pursue a career as a fashion designer in New York?
7. What do the characters Tatiana and Ivan represent to each of the three women? How do they, along with G.W., help to resolve both internal and external conflict among the three women?
8. Describe the way men are portrayed in the novel. How do the personalities and characteristics of the husbands in the book and the side characters (G.W., Michael Forester, Judge Alexander Resnick) help to shape the lives of the three women? Were you surprised when Gina Kay did not enter into a relationship with the judge? If you had been in her situation, would you have done likewise?
9. Parenthood is one of the main themes explored in the novel. Terry and his father, Gina Kay and her parents and children, Holly and her children, and Rhonda and her parents and children are all different examples. What types of parent-sibling relationships does the book explore? How do these relationships and their accompanying responsibilities affect the characters involved?
10. On page 103, Rhonda ponders how, as a woman married to a physician who spends much of his time "off saving lives," she found herself the "hands-on parent" with her own career on the back burner. She adored her children but never evolved a clear image of what she had expected out of life and always had vague feelings of "missing the mark, of failing." Do you think such feelings are common among career-oriented women?
11. Do you share Rhonda and Holly's comments on page 110 about women's lives in the wake of the Women's Movement?
12. Holly and Rhonda both face unwanted pregnancies. How did you feel about the decisions they each made?
13. What does New York City bring to the story? Discuss each woman's reaction to the city. Would any other city have worked just as well?
14. Discuss the three women's feelings about Tatiana's wedding and wedding ceremonies in general. How do you remember your own wedding(s) and those of people close to you? Where they wonderful experiences or something you try not to think about?
15. How did your feelings toward Rhonda change as the story progressed? With which parts of her story did you identify?
16. Do you think that most women think about seeing their first love once again? Do you think men also harbor such fantasies?
17. What impact does her mother's stroke have on Rhonda? Is there someone in your own life on whom you rely for praise and support?
18. As teenagers, the three best friends agreed that the one thing they were never going to do was stay in Lamberton, Texas, and repeat their mothers' lives. Gina Kay never leaves the town, however, and Holly admits that in many ways Waco is a larger version of Lamberton. Were their lives limited more by where they lived or by their husbands' career choices? Did you once vow that you would never live your mother's life? Do most women end up repeating their mothers' lives to some extent?
19. If Rhonda had decided to forgive Gina Kay decades earlier, would the two women have been able to resume their friendship, or was the passage of time a necessary part of the healing process?
20. While you were growing up, what sort of things did you vow that you would never do? Were you true to those vows?