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1. The novel opens with Jessie Maddox having fantasies of her husband's untimely death, either by fate or by accident. What has happened in her life to cause this? What do you think she would do, and how would she react, if her fantasies were to come true? Do you ever have similar thoughts about those you love? If so, examine the way your innermost thoughts often conflict with what you believe you want in life.
2. Jessie is the one telling her story. What are the strengths and
weaknesses of Jessie's first-person narration? Do you think she's
able to remain objective when discussing her unhappiness, or
when describing her family and friends? How would the novel be
different if it were narrated by her husband Turner?
3. Jessie talks about wanting the perfect marriage and the perfect
home. She subscribes to House Beautiful, Southern Living, and
Psychology Today, trying to copy decorating ideas and lifestyle
tips. She joins the Glenville Society Cotillion, and she and her
husband are members of the local country club. Discuss how
Jessie is influenced by what she reads in books and magazines, or
sees in movies, and how her expectations of love and marriage
may be unrealistic. Do you know people who do the same thing?
How has she, as she admits, worked to create the life she always
dreamed of having? How much of Jessie's dilemma do you believe
is based on her desire to keep up with what society expects of her?
4. We know Turner only from the details Jessie reveals, and from the
few scenes where he appears. What do you think of him as a husband,
and what about Turner hasn't Jessie told us? Do youbelieve
he loves Jessie? What could he be doing to help her through this
crisis? Do you think he realizes how unhappy Jessie is? Consider
reading Gustave Flaubert's classic novel Madame Bovary, and discuss
the similarities and the differences between the characters
and the plots of Madame Bovary and A False Sense of Well Being.
5. Is Jessie experiencing a typical midlife crisis? If so, what do you
believe she should be doing to work through it? If not, what do
you think triggered the wave of self-doubt and self-examination
she's having? Discuss any time in your life when you may have felt
the same way.
6. The novel uses passages from The Book of Common Prayer to introduce
certain chapters. Why do you think the author chose The
Book of Common Prayer, and what is the significance of each passage
to the story that follows? Do you think Jessie, or any of the
characters, find any comfort in the passages and prayers that are
7. As a social worker at a mental health clinic, Jessie talks about the
power of confession, and wonders if her clients are helped by
telling her their secrets. Do you believe confession, as the saying
goes, is good for the soul? How do you feel about Jessie as a therapist?
Do you think she's helped by the confessions she makes to
her friends and family? Discuss how the power of confession is
the novel's central theme.
8. Unlike many contemporary novels, in which the male characters
are the ones making bad decisions, having affairs, or leaving
home, it's the women in this novel who are the ones doing all the
misbehaving. What is the significance of this? Discuss the choices
these women make and how these choices affect their lives. Are
the women who are having affairs or running away from home
behaving, in a sense, like men? Do you believe--as does the self-help
writer that Jessie listens to on tape--that men and women
want the same things but have trouble communicating their
wants and needs to each other? Discuss the changing roles of
women over the past few decades, and how this has affected the
traditional ideas of marriage and family.
9. Jessie and her friend Donna have different ways of looking at
things, especially marriage. Jessie says, in fact, that she feels like
she can live vicariously through Donna, because of Donna's affair
Posted April 7, 2009
I Also Recommend:
Well, the very first line in the book had me hooked and laughing. I was expecting a more humorous novel, but I really did enjoy it very much. I would recommend it to my friends for sure! I may just have to read another book by this author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 29, 2002
B&N customers, and all book lovers: Discover this new writer & you won't regret it! I received this book as a gift (after going through a midlife crisis of my own I guess my friends thought it'd cheer me up), and couldn't put it down. Yes, it's a "Southern" novel, but it's one of the NEW South, where suburbs are like suburbs anywhere in the country, and the middle class heroine JEssie -- who thought she had it all ... great house, great husband, great country club membership -- begins to rethink what it is she really wants out of life. This novel will speak to anyone who's seeking a purpose in her life, and a reason for living. I've told all my friends about this great new book & they'll be telling their friends. TIP: It's a great read for any book club. :-)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 18, 2001
This wonderful novel grabs the reader from the opening line: 'I was married eleven years before I started imagining how different life could be if my husband were dead,' and from there flows with the seeming effortlessness that's the mark of a masterful writer. Family and death are two subjects never far from the hearts of Southerners, and they are an integral part of the plot as Jessie Maddox copes with her mid-life crisis. Ultimately, this is a book about life, about how we invent our lives, screw them up, repair them and go on living. It is wise, tenderhearted, and laugh-out loud funny. Fans of Southern fiction wil find a new standard set here with this sharp-eyed depiction of the modern South, where perfect suburbs of mansionettes are just a short jaunt on the Interstate from places where it's still possible to go skinny-dipping or die an untimely death while hunting drunk. The secondary characters are dead-on funny without being afflicted by the extravagant tackiness that afflicts so much writing set in the South. The story of Jessie and her search for a sense of well-being is universal, though, and will appeal to anyone who has counted her blessings and wondered why she felt shortchanged.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.