ThroughoutSaturday’s Child, author Deborah Burns asks herself questions about the relationships and events that shape this story. Below are some questions for your book club to kick off discussion and help you delve into the many issues about love, family, and career that play a role in this memoir.
1. The author writes that her mother crafted a world where all of her domestic and childcare needs were taken care of so that she could be out in the world. This seems like a very modern solution. How do you think it impacted the author’s feelings about herself, her mother and her caretaker aunts? What is the upside (and downside) of an unconventional household or of a mother whose parenting style is outside-the-lines?
2. A parent’s inner thoughts are usually hidden from children, making this author’s life a sometimes colorful, sometimes shocking backdrop full of illusions and people who were not always what they seemed. Every family has secrets—how did any in your family’s history shape who you are today? Have you ever experienced a complete change in opinion of someone after learning their secrets?
3. The marriage of Dotty’s parents was one filled with strife, and perhaps was the first place that Dotty learned how to forge the emotional armor that would be a key part of her identity. How might Dotty sharing her own mother’s secrets have changed the way the author felt about her grandmother’s experience? Are there still similar threads from today about women and their choices? What’s changed and what’s remained the same?
4. When her future sister-in-law Rita infers that Dotty is lying about her age, she states that she, Dotty and Jay are “three of a kind.” How does the truth (or lack of it) impact Dotty’s relationships throughout her life?
5. Deborah realizes that in her work at the factory her mother is “an extraordinary woman living an ordinary life.” How do you think this lesson impacted the author’s own career goals and aspirations? And how did the author’s need to give unconditional love to her children compromise or enhance her own career?
6. When the author reminisces about the mother and daughter relationships she has been privy to, she realizes that her conflict-free relationship with her own mother is unusual and perhaps troubling. How do you think Dotty might have dealt with a more rebellious or vocal daughter like Denise in the relationship with her mother Rita?
7. The author is stunned by the psychic astrologer’s assessment of her relationship to her mother. What did you think of the astrologer’s analysis? If you’re a skeptic, why do you think the astrologer’s reading had such an impact? If you’re a believer, have you ever had a revelation so powerful that you changed course, questioned or sought new answers?
8. The author’s therapist guides her to understand her mother’s behavior and her own reaction to it. She references narcissism and helps reframe the story of the author’s childhood. Have you dealt with narcissistic family members or people in your life who are seductive and charismatic but self-centered?
9. Deborah’s father is a quiet, loving presence in her life. In another relationship, as the creative songwriter from an outsized culture and well-known family, he might have been the star. How do you think his relationship with Dotty changed his trajectory? Can there really be two stars in a marriage?
10. The author grew up under the shadow of her mother’s beauty. What are other attributes or accomplishments parents have that could make their children feel inadequate? How can modern Boomer mothers who have achieved career success make sure that their Millennial daughters don’t feel the same success is out-of-reach?
11. Would you read this book with your mother? Would you read it with your daughter? Why or why not? Much was left unsaid between the author and her mother but the author and her daughter were able to discuss their feelings—what conversations do you think this book would start for you?
12. Unlike harrowing memoirs of abuse, this story draws on the unsettling gray areas of life where things are often uncertain or have shades of meaning. The author looked back on her life to move forward and in so doing, came to terms with perceptions that may or may not have been true. What one relationship in your life—and the beliefs you hold from it—still affects you today?
Let's keep the conversation about mothers and daughters going. Send me your questions, or check out one of my events.
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