PAGE 2
8. My American Unhappiness in some ways seeks to illuminate the nation's post-9/11 malaise, a temporary insanity and depression that affected people more deeply, Zeke might argue, than they're even aware. On a microcosmic level, Zeke's family suffers a post-9/11 transformation as well with the death of his father, brother and wife all within a short period of time following the attacks. Discuss how Zeke's sense of identity is influenced by his nuclear family (parents and brother) and compare that with his role in his post-9/11 family (mother and nieces).

9. Valerie, Zeke's missing and presumed-dead wife, haunts more than half the novel before reappearing. How much of this incident has affected Zeke's ability to pursue and maintain a relationship in his post-Valerie life? What else might be holding him back from asking out Minn, Lara or Elizabeth prior to his mother's ultimatum?

10. Pages 249-250 contain a kind of rant about Zeke's frustration that Americans are interested only in the story of themselves. Discuss his diatribe in the context of his misguided attempts to connect with the women in his life. Additionally, what do you make of the chapter titles in light of this criticism?

11. The last scene of the novel leaves the reader, literally, with a ray of hope. What meaning do you think the author intended for you to take away from this ending? Was it enough to lift the mood of the novel, which essentially spirals downward as Zeke's life and rationality fall apart?

12. What would your response to "Why are you so unhappy?" be? Try writing an answer as though you were responding on the project's website and then share these with one another.

Read O's review of My American Unhappiness

Get more reading guides

NEXT STORY

Comment

LONG FORM
ONE WORD