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Book Club Reading Questions

Book Club Questions for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett | WellRead’s August 2023 selection

Book Club Questions for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett | WellRead’s August 2023 selection

WellRead’s August 2023 selection was Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. 

Use these discussion questions to engage with the book further, whether in a book club with friends, or just on your own as you digest the story. 

Reading questions for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett:

  • Chat about how the book explores destiny and choice and how you would differentiate the two.
  • In her 2011 essay collection This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Patchett wrote that children have “a real failure of imagination when it comes to thinking of the adults in their lives as having done anything of interest, anything at all, in the time known as before”. Clearly, she wanted to explore this idea further in Tom Lake. How do Lara’s daughters perceive her differently by the end of the novel?
  • What do you think the book has to say about the stories we tell and how we tell them?
  • A reviewer in The Guardian wrote that she found the interruptions to the Duke storyline initially quite frustrating. “Cut to the bit where you have sex with the floppy-haired film star, Lara! I kept thinking.” Ha! The reviewer later concedes that the frustrations did not last, and the reader comes to understand how integral the interruptions are to the novel’s purpose. Do you agree? Do you think Patchett balances the two timelines? Did you enjoy being in one more than the other?
  • We all have a Duke in our lives, right? Even if they didn’t go on to win an Oscar. Chat about why certain people or moments in our lives take on a mythological nature.
  • Several of Patchett’s books, including Tom Lake, are reminders that goodness still exists in the world. Did this feel convincing and life-affirming to you? Or dull and glib? Interrogate why you fall into your respective camp.

Please note, these questions were written and distributed in August, 2023.