How About Some Questions We Book Club
Members Can Answer Ourselves?
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Questions and Topics for Discussion
1- The four Ms. Bradwells have distinct Bradwell nicknames based on things that they revealed during their first law school class. Do you think these nicknames suit them? In what ways do you think each stays true to her nickname? In what ways do the women flout them?
2- What did you learn from the Law School Quadrangle Notes chapter epigraphs? What insights did they give you into the evolution of the Ms. Bradwells’ friendships that wasn’t conveyed in the rest of the narrative?
3- Ginger goes to visit Annie on her 18th birthday, just as Faith came to visit on her 21st. How do the two different visits reflect the different mother-daughter relationships? What do you think Ginger absorbed about mothering from Faith? Is she a better mother, or worse?
4- How do you think race factored into the Ms. Bradwells’ decision not to go public with the rape? Do you think it would have turned out differently if Betts or Mia had been raped instead of Laney?
5- What do you think compelled each of the Ms. Bradwells to study law? Why do you think none of them is still practicing in the traditional sense?
6- At one point, Mia muses on the four Bradwell mothers: “It strikes me how different Faith and Mrs. Z are, and yet how similar. How different Ginger’s and Betts’s relationships with their mothers were, and how similar, too. Were Laney and I luckier, to have mothers who wanted for us but didn’t expect?” What do you think she means by this? How would you compare Matka and Faith? How have their similarities and differences shaped their daughters?
7- Isabelle, in a fight with her mother, says that Mia is the happiest of the Ms. Bradwells. Do you think that’s true? Why do you think Mia never remarried?
8- Mothers are very important to the story, but fathers mostly lurk behind the scenes. Why do you think this is? How do you think each of the Ms. Bradwells was influenced by her male role models, or lack thereof? In what ways do you see this reflected in the next generation of Bradwells?
9- Why does Betts kept her conversation with Faith to herself for so many years? Do you agree with her that talking about it could have helped Ginger and Faith’s relationship? Do you think Betts suspected Faith of killing Trey? Did you?
10- Would The Four Ms. Bradwells have been a different reading experience without Ginger’s poetry, Laney’s Latin, Betts’s quirky turns of phrase, and Mia’s photojournalist’s eye for defining details? Why is it significant that Faith left the letter to Margaret wedged into the pages of Anne Sexton’s ‘Briar Rose’?
11- Reread the epigraphs to Part II and Part III, as well as Ginger’s thoughts on pages 200-202 about the New York Times article. Were you surprised by the statistics? How, if at all, did this novel change your perceptions about violence against women? Do you agree with Muriel Rukeyser’s answer to the question “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?”
12- When Ginger arrives on Cook Island, she quotes from Elizabeth Bishop: “Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?/Where should we be today?” How do you think she would have answered that question at the end of the book?
13- The book ends with Betts opening both a literal and figurative door for the Ms. Bradwells and their daughters. What do you imagine the future holds for Annie and Izzy and Gemmy and the rest of their generation? What sacrifices have their mothers and grandmothers made in their names, and what sacrifices they will make for their own daughters? What aspects of these relationships resonated with you most personally? Would you share this novel with your daughter? Your mother? Your best friend?