The Interestings – BOOK CLUB CENTRAL PICK (JUNE 2013)

by Meg Wolitzer

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When six, artistic teenagers meet for a summer in 1974 at Spirit in the Woods, they dub themselves ‘The Interestings’ due to their intellectual connections. Covering the next four decades of their lives the novel – despite some wonky plot lines – investigates changing dynamics among old friends, the repercussions of success, the pain of unrequited love and the ever-present question: why are we here and what are we supposed to do with our time?

Great for:

• People with patience who enjoy in-depth character studies
• Anyone familiar with Wolitzer’s mastery of prose
• Readers who enjoy epic timelines

Jules. There it was, right there: the effortless shift that made all of the difference. Shy, suburban nonentity Julie Jacobson, who had provoked howls for the first time in her life, had suddenly, lightly changed into Jules, which was a far better name for an awkward-looking fifteen-year-old girl who’d become desperate for people to pay attention to her (p. 15).
• Do you think this moment changes Jules’ course in life?
• Which other characters experience moments that send them in a completely different direction?
• Can you think of any of your own moments that you feel like discussing?

“She recognized that that is how friendships begin: one person reveals a moment of strangeness, and the other person decides just to listen and not exploit it (p.21).
• What do you think of the above definition of friendship?

“She’s been no one, and now she was right in the middle of this group of friends, admired for her previously unknown sly humour (26).”
• What does each member bring to the group?
• Why does Wolitzer make Jules the main protagonist?

“The only option for a creative person was constant motion – a lifetime of busy whirlgigging in a generally forward direction, until you couldn’t do it any longer (39).”
• What do you think makes someone creative?

“She was absorbed in Dennis, already devoted. He was caring and good and not ironic, which to her surprise was an element she was attracted to, after all those years of relentless adolescent irony (75). “
• Do you think Jules and Dennis are a good match?
• Which other couples in the book do you view as ‘made-for-each-other’? Are there any characters whose relationships struck you as false?

Love, he thought, should be as powerful as a drug. It should be like chewing a stick of laced Clark’s Teaberry gum and then feeling your neurons blasting all around you (p.114).”
• How does Jonah’s perception of love reflect an adolescent view on the subject?
• How do the characters’ and, by extension, our own views of love change over time?

“Nothing. [Ethan says]. That was a nostalgia kiss [….] It’s sepia coloured. People in that kiss are…wearing stovepipe hats…and children are rolling hoops down the street, and eating penny candy (121).”
• Wolitzer is a strong writer: did you take not of other interesting metaphors, similes, images, etc.?
• What are your views on Ethan and Jules’ relationship?

“I want to not think so much about what I want and what I missed out on. I want to think about other things – other people, in other places even. I am so tired of all the little ironic in-jokes, and reciting lines from TV shows and movies and books (124).”
• Does Ethan ever achieve what he wants?
• What does he mean by the irony of in-jokes? How do they define him and Jules’ relationship?

“Then, soon, everything, the six of them, was over. Or if not over, then changed into something so different from what it had originally been as to be unrecognizable (135).”
• Is there a specific occurrence that ends this period in their life?
• Have you experienced relationships that didn’t translate over time?

“When you looked closely at anything, you could almost faint, Jules thought, although you had to look closely if you wanted to have any knowledge at all in life (168).”
• How does this relate to the old adage: Ignorance is bliss?
• What is the connection made here between knowledge and emotion?

“In the past, people appreciated artwork. Now artwork appreciates? (225).”
• Which other observations does the book offer about the changing perspectives through different generations?

“Once you started toasting people, you had made the complete transition to full-throttle adulthood (258).”
• Can you think of other, funny moments that seem to mark the end of adolescence?

“Whenever he picked up his guitar he recalled sitting around making up music for that grotesque man, who had stolen it from him (268).”
• Are there any moments in your own life that radically changed how you felt about something?

“Jonah was a skeptic, the way all decent scientists were, but his skepticism was outmaneuvered by the good feelings that he now connected with being here among these people” (285).
• Why is Jonah the perfect target for a cult?

“So what did you say?” asked Jules, though this whole family scenario was so far beyond her understanding. Her own mother cut out coupons for frozen yogurt and sent them to her (304).”
• What does this novel say about wealth? About the attainment of wealth?

“Bigness and tininess together at last – yet the bigness would never hurt the tininess! It respected it. In a world in which big always crushes tiny, you wanted to cry at the beauty of big being kind and worshipful of and humbled by tiny (314).”
• What do you suppose this means?

“Ethan had imagined his life was nearly perfect except for the flawed son; but the flaw was in the father (333).
• Are you surprised at the way Ethan reacts to his son?

“Jealousy was essentially “I want what you have,” while envy was “I want what you have, but I also want to take it away so you can’t have it (363).”
• What role does jealousy play in the novel?

“Dennis was present, still present, and this, she thought as she stayed landed against him, was no small talent (451).”
• I love this statement: what do you think?

• Whose storyline contains the most tragedy in your opinion?
• Were there any plot points you thought ridiculous?
• Did the book justify its length?
• What role does art play in the characters’ lives?
• How does Jonah’s early experience affect his artistic desire?
• What do you think of Goodman’s character? Do you know people like him? Is he believable?
• Do Ash and Ethan manage to have everything in the end?
• Were there any characters you disliked?
• Were there any characters that you would have liked to have read more about?
• Was Wolitzer successful in jumping through time?

All books recommended on the website have been read by The Book Dumpling. New titles are added on a continuous basis. To recommend or suggest a book, please email me

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