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Book club questions for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett explore the themes of emotions, relationships, and personal growth.
What an amazing novel! And it’s also a Reese’s Book Club Pick for August 2023. What stood out to me about this book is how it beautifully captures the feelings and connections that make us who we are.
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
This post contains the book club questions for Tom Lake for discussion with your book club. I have also attached a printable PDF at the bottom of your post for your convenience.
I’m excited to hear your unique perspectives during our book club discussion!
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section!
About the Story
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett will sweep you into a charming orchard in Northern Michigan, where Lara and her daughters gather. Through Lara’s stories, the novel unveils a tale of love with actor Peter Duke from the famed Tom Lake theater company.
As the past comes alive, family bonds strengthen, and the book beautifully explores young love, enduring connections, and the stories that shape us. This Reese’s Book Club Pick is a heartwarming journey of emotions and memories that will touch your soul.
About the Author
Ann’s efforts have won her impressive awards, and she’s a strong supporter of independent bookstores.
She lives in Nashville with her husband and dog, and her work continues to inspire readers around the world.
- In “Tom Lake,” Lara’s storytelling serves as a bridge between her past and the present. How does Lara’s storytelling impact her relationship with her daughters, and how do these shared memories influence their perceptions of each other?
- The cherry orchard holds significant meaning for Lara and her family. How does the orchard symbolize both continuity and change in the story? In what ways does the orchard mirror the characters’ experiences and emotions?
- Throughout the book, we see different forms of love unfold—from romantic to familial to platonic. How do these various expressions of love shape the characters’ decisions and actions? Can you identify any moments where love serves as a driving force in the narrative?
- Theater and acting play a vital role in the characters’ lives, especially for Lara during her time at Tom Lake. How do these theater experiences impact her sense of identity and purpose? How does Lara’s passion for acting connect to the broader themes of the novel?
- As Lara recounts her past, we gain insights into the lives of characters like Peter Duke and her best friend Pallace. How do these secondary characters contribute to the depth of the narrative? What do their stories reveal about the main characters and the overarching themes of the book?
- The story unfolds during the spring of 2020, against the backdrop of a pandemic affecting the family’s cherry-picking plans. How does the pandemic context shape the characters’ interactions and choices? How does it add another layer of complexity to the events of the novel?
- Lara’s daughters—Maisie, Emily, and Nell—all have their own unique paths and aspirations. How do their individual journeys mirror or contrast with Lara’s experiences and choices? How do their stories contribute to the exploration of familial bonds?
- The novel explores the concept of happiness amidst life’s challenges. Can you identify moments where characters find happiness or contentment, even when faced with difficulties? How does this theme intersect with the characters’ personal growth?
- Throughout the book, there are moments of revelation and secrets coming to light. How do these surprises impact the characters and their relationships? In what ways do the hidden truths shape the trajectory of the narrative?
- Lara’s relationships—with her daughters, husband, and the people from her past—form the core of the story. How do these relationships evolve over time? How do they contribute to the overall sense of connection and belonging that the book explores?
- The alternating timelines between Lara’s past and the present add depth to the narrative. How do these shifts in time enhance your understanding of the characters and their motivations? How does the structure of the novel create a more immersive reading experience?
- The characters often find solace and joy in the simple moments of life, such as picking cherries together. How do these everyday activities become significant in the context of the story? What do they reveal about the characters’ values and priorities?
- Lara’s journey from her theater experiences to her role in the family’s orchard showcases her growth and transformation. How does Lara’s character arc exemplify the themes of self-discovery and personal evolution? What lessons can we draw from her journey?
- The novel has been praised for its exploration of ordinary living and the strength of relationships. Can you pinpoint specific instances where these themes are highlighted? How do these moments contribute to the overall atmosphere and message of the book?
- “Tom Lake” has been described as a meditation on different forms of love and the lives led before significant moments. How do these meditations on love and past experiences enrich your understanding of the characters’ motivations and choices? How do they contribute to the emotional resonance of the story?
“One of our greatest living chroniclers of love and marriage—and its resounding impacts over generations—is back this summer … Expect wonder; Patchett always delivers.” — Elle
“Patchett is at the top of her game.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A compelling narrative about the secret lives of parents—and how to find happiness in the midst of a long life.” — Time
Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett!
Here are some more of my book club recommendations related to this book:
Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead
It’s 1971. Trash piles up on the streets, crime is at an all-time high, the city is careening towards bankruptcy, and a shooting war has broken out between the NYPD and the Black Liberation Army. Amidst this collective nervous breakdown furniture store owner and ex-fence Ray Carney tries to keep his head down and his business thriving. His days moving stolen goods around the city are over.
1973. The counter-culture has created a new generation, the old ways are being overthrown, but there is one constant, Pepper, Carney’s endearingly violent partner in crime. It’s getting harder to put together a reliable crew for hijackings, heists, and assorted felonies, so Pepper takes on a side gig doing security on a Blaxploitation shoot in Harlem.
1976. Harlem is burning, block by block, while the whole country is gearing up for Bicentennial celebrations. Carney is trying to come up with a July 4th ad he can live with. (“Two Hundred Years of Getting Away with It!”), while his wife Elizabeth is campaigning for her childhood friend, the former assistant D.A and rising politician Alexander Oakes.
CROOK MANIFESTO is a darkly funny tale of a city under siege, but also a sneakily searching portrait of the meaning of family. Colson Whitehead’s kaleidoscopic portrait of Harlem is sure to stand as one of the all-time great evocations of a place and a time.
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
The Covenant of Water is the long-awaited new novel by Abraham Verghese, the author of the major word-of-mouth bestseller Cutting for Stone, which has sold over 1.5 million copies in the United States alone and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.
Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. At the turn of the century, a twelve-year-old girl from Kerala’s long-existing Christian community, grieving the death of her father, is sent by boat to her wedding, where she will meet her forty-year-old husband for the first time.
From this unforgettable new beginning, the young girl—and future matriarch, known as Big Ammachi—will witness unthinkable changes over the span of her extraordinary life, full of joy and triumph as well as hardship and loss, her faith and love the only constants.
A shimmering evocation of a bygone India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the difficulties undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
From James McBride, author of the bestselling Oprah’s Book Club pick Deacon King Kong and the National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird, a novel about small-town secrets and the people who keep them
In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows.
As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.
Bringing his masterly storytelling skills and his deep faith in humanity to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride has written a novel as compassionate as Deacon King Kong and as inventive as The Good Lord Bird.
Feel free to distribute these questions to your book club members before your meeting. Simply click the link below to download and print the PDF file.
Happy reading! ❤️