1. In the essay "Book of Days," Gordon reverses a familiar proverb by saying, "The unlived life is not worth examining." Is this true? In what ways can a life be "unlived"? What does Gordon's aphorism imply about the practice of memoir?
2. Gordon writes about her marriage. How would you characterize it and does it remind you of relationships you have had? Do you think it is a good marriage? Do you believe that any closely examined marriage can hold up as a "good" marriage?
3. Aging is a theme that runs through the essays. What is Gordon's attitude toward aging? How does it compare to your own? In a culture that emphasizes progress and continued development, how do we deal with the inevitable limits and decline that aging involves?
4. Some of the essays deal with fairly personal aspects of the lives of the parties involved, and one, "The Prodigal Returns," examines the consequences of some of these revelations. Do you think Gordon reveals too much about her acquaintances? What boundaries do you believe an author should place on personal revelations about others?
5. What is Gordon's attitude toward psychotherapy? Do you agree?
6. These essays cover most of a lifetime and make a kind of patchwork memoir. They were written roughly in the order in which they appear. Do you see a shift in tone from the early essays to the later ones? What do you think accounts for any perceived changes in tone?
7. There's been much dispute lately about truth and invention in the memoir genre. Gordon suggests that the extended narrative arc of the memoir almost forces the author to distort the truth. How far, if at all, do you expect memoirs to stray from strict reality? What literary license, if any, do you think a memoirist is entitled to take with the events depicted? Do you distinguish between "emotional truth" and "literal truth"?
8. Gordon has critical things to say about a certain kind of feminism, but she herself is far from a traditional woman. In what sense(s) could she be viewed as a feminist?Read O's reviewGet more reading guides