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O My Darling tells the story of a devoted young couple whose marriage begins to implode when they move into their first house. The external lives of Clark, a high school guidance counselor, and Charlotte, a bookkeeper, are utterly ordinary, but their interior lives are as bold and complex as abstract paintings colored by imagined possibilities, childhood joys and, more darkly, by deeply buried fears. When Clark rescues a young boy from drowning, a chain of events--some comic, some harrowing--is set in motion, revealing the fault lines of the couple's marriage and individual psyches. Amity Gaige is a consummate stylist. Her every sentence contains a tiny world--marrying striking images to deep, soulful ideas in perfectly concise fashion. Her cool, slightly off-kilter sensibility expressed in spare, lucid prose will remind readers of Paula Fox (Desperate Characters), while her pure, hyper-real vision of suburban America places her among the most talented of the generation of writers dubbed "the children of Cheever."
Amity Gaige is a graduate of Brown University and the Iowa Writer's Workshop. O My Darling is her first novel. She lives in Cranston, Rhode Island where she is at work on a new novel.
Author insight questions: Questions from Amity Gaige
1. What is the trouble with Clark and Charlotte's relationship? We see that they have good intentions towards each other, but what do you think keeps them in such conflict? Which one of them do you think is at fault, and why?
2. As I began O My Darling, I was not sure exactly what or whom haunted Clark and Charlotte's yellow house. These spirits took shape as the book went along, culminating perhaps in the chapter called "Fever." How would you define the ghosts in Clark and Charlotte's house? Are they "real" ghosts, or something else? Do you think that all houses are haunted by the people who have lived there previously? Will we haunt the houses (and people) that we leave?
3. Many authors say that the characters in their books represent parts of themselves. Sometimes as I was writing the book, I thought that Charlotte represented my skeptical side and Clark represented my credulous or naive side. The tension between doubt and belief exists in many of us. If you were writing a book that explored two sides of yourself that are often in conflict, what sides of yourself would you chose?
4. In the last third of the book, Clark goes to visit his sharp-tongued father Wallace and his girlfriend Penny. How do you think both Penny and Wallace contribute to Clark's emotional journey? Do you think that the information they give him--including even the punches that Wallace throws---is meant to help him or to hurt him?
General discussion questions:
1. What happens to Charlotte in the chapter called "Fever"? What does she learn, and how does it affect her?
2. There are many ordinary, everyday objects in the novel that take on a symbolic or metaphorical quality. Select one of the objects that stuck with you – the lawn mower, the baby pool, the birthday gift in the first chapter--and discuss what you think this object may represent or stand for in Clark and Charlotte's relationship.
3. Every commitment, especially marriage, brings with it certain fears. What fears do you believe Clark and Charlotte have about marriage? What fears of commitment have you experienced?
4. One's "first house" often remains with us long after we've moved. What do you think drew Charlotte and Clark to the yellow house? What role does it play in their marriage? What do you remember about your first house? Do you have memories of your parents or friends talking about theirs?