If your book club would like to read Across the Table, I’d be delighted to join you in your discussion—in person if you are within traveling distance of western New England or by phone if you are beyond it.
Please email me at email@example.com for more information.
Here are some suggested questions for your book club discussion:
1. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story with three narrators? Are each of the narrator’s voices effective? How did the author make them distinct from one another? Did you have a preference? Why?
2. Why do you think the author opens the story on the island of Trinidad? What effect does starting their marriage at Chaguaramas have on Rose and Al later in the story?
3. What role does food play in the story? Do you agree that the author uses food to convey change and cultural differences? For example, what do you learn about Toni’s relationship with Bobby when she spends Thanksgiving with his family in Indiana? Has food and meal preparation played a role in your own relationships?
4. The story spans seven decades and five generations of an American family, and the author uses history not only as background but as an important element that shapes the characters’ experiences. How have pivotal events in recent and not-so-recent history (e.g., Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, the social changes of the sixties, 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) affected and influenced your own life?
5. Do you agree with how Rose handled Al’s adultery? Was her response believable? Why do you think she opened her home and her heart to Manny?
6. Why do you think the Dante family didn’t leave the North End after they became successful?
7. Toni describes her decision to marry Bobby as “staying safe.” Why is safety so important to her? Does she move beyond her illusions about safety later in the story?
8. When Peter brings the print artist Diane Rocheleau to Paradiso, Toni sees herself as a lapsed artist who never lived up to her potential. Do you think that is a perception women often confront in their lives? Have you ever experienced a sense of regret for missed opportunity?
9. What is most important to Rose? Do you agree with her?
10. What does Vanessa struggle with as a student at Harvard? Why do you think she creates the havoc that she does by bringing Bobby back into their lives? How would you have responded if you were Toni?
11. Mother-daughter relationships are a recurring motif in the story—Rose and Mama, Rose and Toni, and Toni and Vanessa. Although each relationship is shaped by its generation (and the distance from Italy), did you find yourself identifying, either as a daughter or a mother, with any of the conflicts or their resolution?
12. What moments in the book struck you as the most powerful?