Readers Guide

Here are some questions to consider about The Divorce Girl. To have Caryn visit your book club — in person if you’re located near where she is or will be, and by phone or skype otherwise, please contact her here.

  1. Deborah sees the world both through her own eyes and through her camera. What difference does it make for her to look at people, events, her own responses as if she were taking a photograph?
  2. Do you believe the death of Deborah’s brother catalyzed her parents’ divorce? What difference might it have made if he had lived?
  3. People under severe stress do strange things, particularly when in the middle of a horrendous divorce. Consider some of the actions of Deborah’s parents in this light, and discuss what might have been behind such actions (such as the ivory liquid/plants incident, or the knish-baking incident).
  4. From reading about Fatima, what do you think her backstory is? What does the novel suggest about the losses and hardships she suffered? In this light, how do you see Fatima’s decision to distance herself from Deborah?
  5. What is Eshe’s role in this story? How is she an important mentor to Deborah in unexpected ways?
  6. Some people, after reading about Deborah’s father, would suggest he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that makes it hard for him to read social cues and understand both people’s actions toward him and his own reactions. How do you see his motivations and interactions with others?
  7. Why does Deborah choose to live with her father?
  8. Why do you think Jeanine brushes off the loss of her social work career rather casually? What seems to appeal to her about the new work in her life?
  9. When Deborah suggests to Boy he can be anything he wants in the world, he tells her, “That’s just a pipe dream. I’m signed up long term for the rags-on-the-road life.” Why does he believe his options are so limited, and are then indeed that limited?
  10. Liz has traveled all over the world but ends up in ‘Jersey, “like I’m never been anywhere,” she says. Why is she so satisfied with her life, and what do you think she’s found in the store, a home, and “Uncle” Carl?
  11. Roger spends a lot of time reading classics, particularly about women in complex social situations in the 1800s, as well as reading comics and watching TV. How might these function well as his way of coping?
  12. The rabbi doesn’t talk about spirituality much, yet he seems to be very focused on working with a difficult congregation and doing all he can to help Deborah. What do you see as his motivation?
  13. How does Mrs. P contradict or reinforce the myth of a Holocaust survivor? Also, why do you think cleaning and cooking are so important to her?
  14. Food is a major theme throughout the book with Deborah’s father struggling to sustain his weight loss, Deborah’s mother having difficulty getting herself to eat under stress, Mrs. P focused on creating perfect meals at regular intervals, Liz somewhat obsessed with sweets, and other characters motivated by their next meal. How do you see food functioning for various characters as more than just nutrition?
  15. Why do you think Deborah’s mother wrote all the letters (and chose to reveal her life), and why do you think Deborah’s father hid all the letters?
  16. What is Mark’s role — from start to finish — in this novel? What gifts does he give Deborah?