Object Lessons

Object Lessons

by Anna Quindlen
3.4 14

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Object Lessons by Anna Quindlen

"Elaborate and playful...Honest and deeply felt....Here is the Quindlen wit, the sharp eye for the details of class and manners, [and] the ardent reading of domestic lives."
It is the 1960s, in suburban New York City. Maggie and her family, are in the thrall of her powerful grandfather Jack Scanlan. In the summer of her twelfth year, Maggie is despertately trying to master the object lessons her grandfather fills her head with. But there is too much going on to concentrate. Everything at home is in upheaval, her grandfather is changing, and Maggie is unsure if what she wants is worth having....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307763532
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/25/2010
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 130,368
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

ANNA QUINDLEN is the author of three bestselling novels, Object Lessons, One True Thing, and Black and Blue. Her New York Times column “Public & Private” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, and a selection of those columns was published as Thinking Out Loud. She is also the author of a collection of her “Life in the 30’s”columns, Living Out Loud; a book for the Library of Contemporary Thought, How Reading Changed My Life; the bestselling A Short Guide to a Happy Life; and two children’s books, The Tree That Came to Stay and Happily Ever After. She is currently a columnist for Newsweek and lives with her husband and children in New York City.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

July 8, 1952

Place of Birth:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


B.A., Barnard College, 1974

Reading Group Guide

1. Object Lessons unfolds mostly through the eyes of twelve-year-old Maggie. In which ways is Maggie older and more perceptive than her age would suggest? How is she naive? How do you envision Maggie’s evolution as she grows older and away from her family?

2. Does the book have the elements of a traditional coming-of-age novel? If so, what are they? Do you agree with Connie’s assessment at the end of the book that her daughter has become a woman? In what ways is Maggie still a little girl?

3. What does the development being built near Tommy and Connie’s house represent to the various Scanlans? To the neighborhood kids, including Maggie, Debbie, Bruce, and Richard? To the town of Kenwood as a whole? How does it represent a larger theme or symbol in the novel?

4. How do Maggie and Connie have a typical mother-daughter rapport? An atypical one? How is Connie’s attitude toward Maggie influenced by the attitudes of her parents toward her?

5. What factors motivated Tommy and Connie to marry? What initially draws one to the other? How are they well-matched? What causes their marriage to flounder?

6. Why is it significant that Joey Martinelli appears on Connie’s doorstep when he does? How has she become a different person from the girl he once knew? What attributes would she like to bring to the surface once again?

7. When he learns of Connie’s driving lessons, Tommy thinks that he “could take her anywhere she needed to go.” Why does he view her learning to drive as a betrayal? Are Connie’s driving lessons symbolic? If so, how?

8. What role does the Roman Catholic Church play in Object Lessons? How does the Church and its rituals represent a spiritual force for the characters? In which ways is it a business entity?

9. At the beginning of Object Lessons, John Scanlan rules over the family as an indomitable patriarch. What about his personality is so arresting, both to those within the family and outside of it? How does he inspire emotion—whether it’s fear, respect, or loathing? Why do he and Maggie get along so well? How do you see the family evolving as they adjust to his death?

10. Whom does Maggie look up to as a role model, both within her family and outside of it? What attributes do these people have in common? Why does she so dislike her cousin Monica?

11. The friendship between Maggie and Debbie Malone evaporates during the course of the book. Why do you think that Debbie turns on Maggie? How is their friendship different from the relationship Connie has with Celeste?

12. What does the Malone family represent to Maggie? Why does Debbie’s sister, Helen, take a liking to Maggie?

13. After his stroke, John Scanlan says, “It’s not the dying I mind, it’s the changing.” How is this statement typical of his character? Which members of his family would agree with him; who in this novel would disagree?

14. How do Maggie’s two grandfathers compare and contrast with each other? Which attributes from each does Maggie seem to have? To which one does she seem most similar? Why?

15. Debbie decries always being known as “Helen Malone’s sister”; Maggie counters that she’s always “John Scanlan’s granddaughter.” How do the two girls grapple with the idea of identity, especially as it relates to their relationship to other family members? How does each girl try to form her own individuality? How do names and nicknames play a part in identity in Object Lessons?

16. “Until this horrible sweaty summer, lines had been drawn,” Maggie recalls sadly. What connections and boundaries are erased from Maggie’s life during the course of the book? Which fissures are the most apparent? How does Maggie handle the disintegration of these connections?

17. In your opinion, why do the kids begin setting fires in the development? Why does Maggie initially participate? At the last fire, are Maggie’s actions heroic or cowardly, or a combination of the two? Why? Do you think that her behavior hastens the end of her friendship with Debbie?

18. In which ways does John’s death free Mary Frances? Why is she consumed by the memory of her dead daughter, and why does she want to be buried with her? Why does Mary Frances prefer Connie and Tommy living with her to her other children?

19. At the beginning of Object Lessons, Maggie “listens too much”; by the end of the novel, she’s found her voice. Why did it take so long for her true self to emerge? How do you think she’ll merge her newfound consciousness with the competing voices of her past influences?

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Object Lessons 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Object Lessons' is a very well-written novel about a time that is the same for everyone, yet is different for each individual: the time when one must learn to deal with the various changes that life throws upon him/her, good or bad. Through accepting these changes, one not only matures, but learns more about his/her identity: who they are, and who they want to become, which is a very important factor in life. The events in this novel are ones that many people can relate to, regardless of age: the breakup of a friendship, the start of a new one, a death in the family, a wedding, a divorce. Then there are those deeper issues, such as holding on to past memories, and discovering who the people close to you really are. I feel this is a 'must-read' for anyone who needs an uplifting on how to live his/her life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have only read two other books by her, they were both great, and this book was no exception. She is my favorite author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this book for english class in the 9th grade,and I can honestly say that I have read it at least 9 times. I love this book. Quindlen does a great job in the growth and chance of the characters in Object Lessons. I found it to be honest and intersting at the same time. It is my #2 book of all time and I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel changed how I view life. Only Quindlen can accurately portray the complex emotions a young girl can feel in the course of one summer and how much things can change in the course of a few months. Through her poignant writing style I have been able to come to terms with changes in my own life. I would recommend this to anyone who has been a thirteen-year-old girl or knows a thirteen-year-old girl!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Quindlen's style of writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I think anyone, especially women, can identify with Maggie in one way or another. All the characters were fully realized and you really felt for them. I only wish this book had been a little longer.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It was a fairly quick read and the author really did a good job of making you feel for and understand the characters. It was not the most stimulating or captivating book I've ever read but still worth the effort.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There was no plot to speak of and the characters were about as stereotype as they come--Irish Catholics vs. Italian Catholics, tyrannical patriarch, unhappy housewife who hasn't mastered the art of birth control and none of her relatives, who are so shocked that she keeps getting pregnant, care to share the secret with her. I could only get about two thirds through before I had to call it quits. I am amazed this book was even published, let alone a bestseller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading the entire book was like reading one chapter, I was still eaiting for the story to be told. This was disapointing. Not one of her best.