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Book Club Questions for The Museum of Failures by Thrity Umrigar (+ Printable PDF)

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the museum of failures book club questions

Book club questions for The Museum of Failures by Thrity Umrigar explore the themes of family relationships, forgiveness, and empathy as readers delve into the complex dynamics between Remy Wadia and his mother. The questions encourage readers to reflect on how past decisions shape present actions, the significance of secrets and their impact on relationships, and the transformative power of understanding and acceptance.

I fell in love with Thrity Umrigar’s novels back in 2012 when I read “The World We Found.” Her storytelling swept me off my feet. “Honor” left me in tears, and now, her new book, “The Museum of Failures,” has continued to capture my heart.

Umrigar has this incredible way of connecting us to the very essence of being human through her stories. It’s like she reaches into your soul and makes you feel every emotion alongside her characters. I can’t get enough of her writing!

What were your impressions of this novel? ✨

The Museum of Failures by Thrity Umrigar
the museum of failures book

In this blog post, you will find thoughtfully crafted discussion questions for The Museum of Failures by Thrity Umrigar.

At the bottom of this post I also have some additional suggestions for novels that share similar themes and narratives.

Let me know if you find these book club questions useful. I’m excited to hear your unique perspectives during your book club discussions!

Book Club Questions | Additional Recommendations | Printable List

About the Story

The Museum of Failures is a touching story about Remy Wadia, who returns to India from the United States to reconnect with his ailing mother.

Carrying resentment from his childhood, he plans to adopt a baby and reconcile with his mother before it’s too late.

While caring for her, he discovers a mysterious photograph that unravels shocking family secrets, leading him to reevaluate his past and his parents’ decisions. As he grapples with forgiveness and empathy, the book explores themes of love, regret, redemption, and healing between a mother and son.

It’s a powerful reminder that forgiveness stems from understanding and empathy for others.

About the Author

Thrity Umrigar is a renowned author with nine bestselling novels, including “Honor,” “The Space Between Us,” and “The Story Hour.” She has also written a memoir and three picture books for kids.

Thrity Umrigar author

Umrigar’s works have been translated into multiple languages and published in over fifteen countries. She holds the title of Distinguished University Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Born in Bombay, India, Umrigar moved to the U.S. at the age of 21. Despite a diverse childhood in a multicultural environment, she found solace in books, which eventually inspired her writing career. After earning degrees in journalism and English, Umrigar worked as a journalist and later pursued a Ph.D. in English.

She received a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University, where she wrote her first novel. Umrigar is an active speaker, having participated in various book festivals, universities, and literary events across the country.

Book Club Questions for The Museum of Failures

Disclaimer: the following discussion questions contain spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t finished the book yet.

  1. Why do you think Remy, despite his advantages in America, still feels conflicted about living there?
  2. How do you feel about Cyrus’ decision, and do you understand his motivations? Do you think his actions were selfish, and could you forgive a parent for making such a choice? As a parent yourself, have you ever withheld information from your children, and how did that make you feel?
  3. In what ways do you think Remy’s lack of knowledge about his true past influenced his personality and choices?
  4. How does Remy’s return to India challenge his perceptions of his homeland and his relationship with his mother? In what ways does this journey force him to reevaluate his past and his understanding of his family?
  5. In the context of the book’s title, “The Museum of Failures,” how do the characters confront their own failures and shortcomings? How do these failures shape their identities and relationships? Do you think the title accurately captures the essence of the story, and what does it refer to?
  6. What do you think might have happened if Shirin had told Remy the truth? Why do you think she didn’t, and how did your feelings towards her change as you learned more about their past?
  7. The flashback scenes sometimes present Shirin’s first-person perspective. Do you think this narrative strategy was effective?
  8. How did you perceive Dina’s role in the story, and how did her choices make you feel?
  9. Why do you think Shirin sided with Dina after the party?
  10. What did you learn about the Parsi community through the book?
  11. What are your thoughts on Remy’s colleague greeting him daily with “namaste” in a mock Indian accent? Do you consider this behavior racist, and how do you think Remy should react to it?
  12. How did you feel about Remy’s school friends? What commonalities did he share with them, and do you think those similarities were enough to sustain their friendships?
  13. The idea of forgiveness and acceptance is a prominent theme in the book. How do Remy and other characters navigate forgiveness, both for themselves and for their loved ones? Can you relate any of these situations to real-life experiences?
  14. The sense of place is emphasized in the reviews, with readers feeling transported to India. How does the author create a vivid and immersive setting? How does the setting contribute to the overall atmosphere and emotional impact of the story?
  15. The story explores the complexities of parent-child relationships. How do Remy’s perceptions of his parents change as he learns more about their past actions and decisions? How do his experiences with his parents influence his views on love, forgiveness, and family?
  16. Why do you think Remy sees Bombay as a “Museum of Failures”? How do his past experiences shape his perspective?
  17. How do you perceive Remy’s reasons for adopting a child, and do you agree with Kathy pressing him to adopt from India?
  18. What do you think about the fact that it takes a combination of three women—Shirin, Dina, and Hillary—to help Remy achieve his desires? How does this reflect on his character?
  19. Both of Remy’s parents advise him not to look back when leaving India. Why do you think they offer this advice, and considering what he’s learned, do you think it’s valid counsel?
  20. If you could add one more chapter to the story, what would you want to happen next?

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for The Museum of Failures by Thrity Umrigar!

Here are some more of my book club recommendations related to this book:

A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand

From award-winning author Elizabeth Hand comes the first-ever novel authorized to return to the world of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House—a “scary and beautifully written” (Neil Gaiman) new story of isolation and longing perfect for our present time.

Open the door . . . 

Holly Sherwin has been a struggling playwright for years, but now, after receiving a grant to develop her play Witching Night, she may finally be close to her big break. All she needs is time and space to bring her vision to life. When she stumbles across Hill House on a weekend getaway upstate, she is immediately taken in by the mansion, nearly hidden outside a remote village. It’s enormous, old, and ever-so eerie—the perfect place to develop and rehearse her play.

Despite her own hesitations, Holly’s girlfriend, Nisa, agrees to join Holly in renting the house for a month, and soon a troupe of actors, each with ghosts of their own, arrive. Yet as they settle in, the house’s peculiarities are made known: strange creatures stalk the grounds, disturbing sounds echo throughout the halls, and time itself seems to shift.  

All too soon, Holly and her friends find themselves at odds not just with one another, but with the house itself. It seems something has been waiting in Hill House all these years, and it no longer intends to walk alone . . .

Midnight Is the Darkest Hour by Ashley Winstead

From the critically acclaimed author of In My Dreams I Hold A Knife and The Last Housewife comes Midnight is the Darkest Hour, a gothic Southern thriller about a killer haunting a small Louisiana town, where two outcasts―the preacher’s daughter and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks―hold the key to uncovering the truth.

For fans of Verity and A Flicker in the Dark, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is a twisted tale of murder, obsessive love, and the beastly urges that lie dormant within us all…even the God-fearing folk of Bottom Springs, Louisiana. In her small hometown, librarian Ruth Cornier has always felt like an outsider, even as her beloved father rains fire-and-brimstone warnings from the pulpit at Holy Fire Baptist.

Unfortunately for Ruth, the only things the townspeople fear more than the God and the Devil are the myths that haunt the area, like the story of the Low Man, a vampiric figure said to steal into sinners’ bedrooms and kill them on moonless nights. When a skull is found deep in the swamp next to mysterious carved symbols, Bottom Springs is thrown into uproar―and Ruth realizes only she and Everett, an old friend with a dark past, have the power to comb the town’s secret underbelly in search of true evil.

A dark and powerful novel like fans have come to expect from Ashley Winstead, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is an examination of the ways we’ve come to expect love, religion, and stories to save us, the lengths we have to go to in order to take back power, and the monstrous work of being a girl in this world.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love in the start of a heartwarming and enchanting new fantasy series.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party—or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, muddle Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones—the most elusive of all faeries—lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all—her own heart.

Happy reading! ❤️