The Pilot's Wife
What devices does Shreve use to make her novel such a compelling read? Consider the flashbacks, the action, the style of language and word choice, and character painting.
Do you think the reason Jack couldn't be honest with Kathryn about his mother and his life with Muire was not so much because of his love for Kathryn, but more because he didn't want to repeat what his mother did and subject his child to what he went through? In what ways do Kathryn and Jack repeat their respective mother's mistakes?
Muire revealed the whole truth to Kathryn about Jack's secret life. How did this confession help Kathryn find the answers to her questions about how "real" her marriage was? Who is the "real wife?" (p. 265) What constitutes a 'real wife'? Do we continue to think that Kathryn is the 'real' wife, because this is her story, or Muire for accepting the truth about Kathryn?
As the story progresses Kathryn gradually pieces together mysteries of her husband's life from the facts that come to light following Jack's death. At the same time she is trying to understand the pieces of her own life. Does Kathryn and Jack's house, originally inhabited by nuns retreating from the world, play a significant part in this story? In what way was the house that Kathryn and Jack lived in for 11 years a metaphor for their relationship? Discuss the significance of Kathryn's discovery of the site of the Sisters' Chapel at the end of the book.
At what point in the story did you figure out that Jack was having an affair? Were you suspicious when Kathryn found the receipt for the bath robe, or the note in his pocket? Did you want to believe Kathryn's suspicions?
Discuss the differences between Kathryn's relationship to Jack and Mattie's to him. Which relationship seemed more honest? Which relationship seemed stronger? As a mother, is Kathryn obligated, at some future time, to share full knowledge of Jack with Mattie?
Do you think The Pilot's Wife would make a good film? If so, why? Who would you cast as the major characters in the film version? Why?
Booksellers whose questions have been used in The Pilot's Wife readers' group guide:
Melissa A. Frazer, Lake Country Booksellers, White Bear Lake, MN
Susan Avery, Ariel Books, New Paltz, NY
Justine Morgan, The Bookstore, Hollister, CA
Lucy Crane, Bookwoorks, Albuquerque, NM
Kristin Kennell, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
Peggy Baldwin, Bookworks, Aptos, CA
Heidi Gunter, Magnolia's Bookstore, Seattle, WA
Kristin Brackett, Key Chain Books, Tavernier, FL
Ettabelle Schwartz, The Learned Owl, Hudson, OH