Finny, A Reader's Guide

Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion
  1. We live with Finny for more than two decades in the book, seeing her at some of her best and worst moments.  In what ways would you say Finny changes over the course of the book?
  1. Who are your favorite characters in the novel? 
  1. Judith is a complicated and controversial figure in the novel.  Immediately, when Finny meets her at the Thorndon boarding school, Finny acknowledges her beauty, and also that Judith was "more like a grown woman than a girl."  As you read, what conclusions did you reach about Judith and her beauty?
  1. The theme of families plays a large role in the book. Would you say that Finny's feelings about family change over the course of the book?
  1. Another big theme in the book is romantic love.  Early in the book, thinking of her love for Earl, Finny comes upon the realization that "this feeling, this endless, inconsolable longing, would forever be a part of her life, a part of what it meant to truly love...in the end she could never say whether it was good or bad." How would you say that the ideas in this passage play out over the course of the book?  Is Finny's love for Earl a "good" thing?
  1. Finny often feels misunderstood in the book.  She has trouble explaining herself to her parents, but also to her high school principal, and to the man who cuts her hair in Paris, and to the men she dates after she moves to Boston.  Why do you think she so often feels this frustration about misunderstanding?
  1. Would you say that the book is told from the point of view of an old or young person?
  1. How would you characterize the tone of the book?  Light?  Heavy? Does it shift at all? 
  1. Do you think the book takes an optimistic or pessimistic view of people?
  1. How would you characterize the humor in the book?  Is it light-hearted?  Dark?  You might look at the scene in the funeral home, when the Haberdashers are exchanging sneezes.  Why would the author choose to put a comic scene in the middle of such a tragic period in Finny's life?
  1. In the first chapter of Book 3, "Finny Gets a Glimpse into the Lives of Her Friends," we learn of a number of changes in the lives of all the major characters.  Examine how the lives of Carter, Judith, Sylvan, and Finny change over the fifteen years that separate Book 2 and Book 3.  How would you characterize these changes?
  1. Do you think the book takes a certain view of sex?
  1. Compare Finny to other books you know about "growing up." How is it similar or different?  How is a book about a young woman's coming of age different than a book about a man's?
  1. What do you think about a man writing a book entirely from the point of view of a woman?  Is it possible for a writer to make this shift?  Does Kramon capture the feeling of being a woman?  What do you think, in general, of fiction writers writing about people who aren't like them, or events outside of their experience?
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