This reading group guide for Mrs. Fletcher includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction
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Building on the gentle but incisive social satire of Little Children, The Leftovers,
, Tom Perrotta’s masterful new work, Mrs. Fletcher,
returns the reader to the complicated (and often comical) world of the sexual mores of the American suburbs. When Eve Fletcher’s beloved only child, Brendan, starts college, she’s left all alone and full of questions about how and with whom to live the rest of her life, while miles away Brendan struggles with questions of his own—about how to treat women, understand his relationship with his divorced parents, and grow into a responsible sexual being. As Eve and Brendan separately struggle with their sexualities and self-conceptions, mother and son set out on journeys of discovery that lead them to unexpected places and, after two wild parties, to a dramatic collision. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The novel opens with Eve privately lamenting that “big days” (page 3) are never as special as they should be. Are there other “big days,” beyond dropping Brendan off at college, that fail to go the way she hopes?
2. Receiving that fateful, inappropriate text message—“U r my MILF!” (page 40)—has a profound effect on Eve, plunging her into the world of MILF porn and ongoing sexual fantasies about other women. Why do you think the text impacts Eve so deeply? How relevant do you think it is that her sexual exploration begins because someone else sees her as desirable, rather than emerging from solely internal motivation?
3. How are the dynamics of Eve and Amanda’s “date” influenced by Eve’s consumption of porn? Do you see her porn use as compulsive? Empowering? Something else?
4. At their dinner out, Eve and Amanda invent names for their alter egos: Ursula and Juniper. Does Eve’s engagement with Amanda, taking a Gender and Society class, and sexual acting out feel like an embrace of this alter ego? Do you think Eve is trying to “find herself,” or is she trying to become someone else?
5. Brendan occupies a position of privilege in the world and on his college campus, yet he can’t seem to adjust to his new environment. Why do you think that is? Is it related to his sense of privilege, or does his discomfort come from elsewhere?
6. How would you describe the relationship between Brendan and Zack at first? What changes? Why do you think Zack distances himself from the friendship?
7. Brendan and Julian are both young, straight, white cisgender men taking college classes, yet they occupy their positions of privilege in very dissimilar ways. What do they have in common, and how are they different?
8. Despite herself, Eve is attracted to Julian and Amanda—both generationally younger and more progressive than she is. What do you think she finds appealing about each of them?
9. Amber uses the Autism Awareness Network to bond with Brendan and to try to engage him politically. What are her plans for him? On page 126, she says, “That’s how we change the world. One person at a time.” Is Amanda trying to “change” Brendan, and if so, does she succeed?
10. Brendan is jealous of his dad’s relationship with Jon-Jon, his autistic half-brother, even though Jon-Jon is fairly low-functioning. When he has a temper tantrum on Parents Weekend, Brendan thinks about “how unfair it was that my father loved him so much and held him so tight—way tighter than he’d ever held me—and wouldn’t let go no matter what” (page 137). Can you empathize with Brendan’s pain, or do you think he is just being selfish?
11. When Amber and Brendan hook up, they have a sexual miscommunication that leads her to regard him as a “huge disappointment” (page 207). What’s Brendan’s role in the situation? What’s Amber’s?
12. By the time Eve, Amanda, and Julian have sex together, each has been fantasizing about the others for weeks or months. When their private fantasies enter the public sphere, what changes?
13. Eve texts Julian a picture of herself, but she won’t go over to his parents’ house to have sex with him. Why does she draw the line there? Do you think her reluctance to fully engage with Julian is about their age difference, or morality, or self-respect, or fear, or something else entirely? As a reader, does their age difference matter to you? And does it involve a different ethical calculation than it would if she were an older man and he a younger woman?
14. Professor Fairchild is an example of a character who, unlike Eve, has undergone a significant and permanent transformation. What do you make of their friendship? What does Eve hope to get from Margo, and Margo from Eve?
15. At the end of the novel, Eve settles back into conventionality, embracing a heterosexual relationship with someone her own age. At their wedding, however, Eve has a moment of doubt: she wonders if it was George, her soon-to-be husband, who sent her the MILF text message all those months ago. Who do you think it was? So much of Mrs. Fletcher
is about characters’ hidden fantasies, unknown to all but the reader—except when those fantasies break through into real life, as they do with Eve, Julian, and Amanda. Do you think the characters we know less about have secret selves, secret “Ursulas,” too? Does everyone? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Mrs. Fletcher
is being developed as an HBO series. Consider watching some of Tom Perrotta’s earlier works that have made the leap to the screen, like The Leftovers, Little Children,
and discussing them as a group.
2. Explore your local community college. Do they offer Gender Studies classes or lectures on gender and sexuality? Would you be interested in attending one as a group?