Come take a journey with the Garretts, a Baltimore family whose story spans several decades and explores the intricate and often complicated relationships between family members.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler brings her signature warmth and humor to French Braid, a novel that touches on the challenges of ambition, the cruelties of daily life, and the ever-present love that binds us together.
Join me as I delve into this discussion guide consisting some of the amazing book club questions for The French Braid and find out why it’s a must-read for anyone looking for a thought-provoking exploration of family dynamics, personal ambitions, and the complexities of love and relationships.
The post might contain affiliate links. For more information, read our disclosure. Also, these questions contain spoilers.
French Braid Book Club Questions
- The chance encounter between Serena and Nicholas at the beginning of the novel shows how disconnected the Garrett family members were from each other, even those who are related. Not keeping in touch with each other proved that they were not well acquainted with what was happening in their respective lives.
Discuss how this was purposely done by Anne Taylor to set the stage for the rest of the novel, which delves into the family’s history and explores the reasons for their estrangement.
- The vacation at Deep Creek Lake highlights the lack of communication between parents and children, as Robin downplays David’s near-drowning incident. The vacation becomes a turning point in Lily’s life as she meets Trent and falls for him.
Do you think this was the exact moment when Alice’s protective instincts kicked in when she realized what was happening and became way more concerned about her sister’s wellbeing?
- Mercy’s decision to move to her art studio reflects her desire to pursue her own interests and have her own space. Her family is initially taken aback by her decision, but eventually accept it. Mercy’s dedication to her art is a source of tension between her and Robin, but it also allows her to carve out her own identity and pursue her passion.
Discuss Mercy’s ability to have confidence in herself based on this particular scenario.
- From the strained relationship between Alice and Kevin to the bond between Mercy and Robin, Anne Tyler examines the different ways that family members interact with and influence one another in taking multiple decisions. Each chapter presents a different set of challenges and obstacles for the characters to navigate, and the way they handle these challenges sheds light on their relationships with one another
Discuss how these themes of family dynamics and relationships manifest throughout the different chapters of the book.
- Eddie struggles to reveal his orientation to his family, fearing rejection and judgment. However, he eventually learns that his family has always known and accepts him for who he is. Lily, on the other hand, makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to remarry without telling anyone, suggesting a desire to assert her own identity and pursue her own happiness.
Do you think these two events highlight how important self-acceptance and not living a fabricated life is?
- Mercy’s role as a dreamer causes her to live vicariously through her daughter Lily’s romantic adventures and encourages her infatuations and dalliances. This impacts her relationship with her family members as they are unaware of her desire for a separate life and cannot understand her eccentric art style and decision to move into her art studio. Her dreamer mentality also allows her to extend grace, space, and forgiveness to her family members, accepting their flaws and quirks without confrontation.
Let’s talk about the character of Mercy based on this particular scenario. What are some things that you like about Mercy?
- Robin’s mother dying of cancer when he was quite young shapes him into an insecure and underconfident human being. His aunt Alice’s pessimistic perspective further reinforces his negative outlook on life. This manifests in his interactions with his family, as he struggles to understand and accept their unique personalities and desires.
I know this is a bit sensitive, but we have had our fair share of losses in our respective lives. Would anyone like to share with the group as to how loss can affect us emotionally and mentally and what the aftereffects are, particularly if you have lost something or someone at a very young age?
- Lily’s impetuousness and emotionally driven personality cause her to react spontaneously to life, rather than planning her actions. This leads to her having numerous romantic liaisons throughout the narrative, which causes her father and sister to mock her. However, her mother remains uncritical, likely due to seeing herself in her daughter’s romantic life.
How important a role does Lily’s mother play in being an uncritical parent based on this context? What would the consequences have been if Lily’s mother was highly critical of her actions?
- David’s observant nature leads him to recognize the questionable nature of the adults around him, causing him to distance himself from his family after college. Despite this, he becomes a beloved teacher and a loving father. His marriage to Greta brings him the revelation of a mate who understands human actions and speaks with complete candor.
Discuss how David’s traumatic childhood was the prime reason behind his inconsistent relationships with his family during the later years of his life.
- Serena feels uncomfortable around James’s family because of the difference in their social status. Robin struggles with proposing to Mercy because he perceives himself as being from a lower social class than she is. Similarly, Mercy complains about the merchants around Deep Creek Lake catering to rich snobs, and Kevin, a business mogul, teases David about his unwillingness to get rid of his aged VW Beetle.
What is your take on the way class distinction has been portrayed in the novel?
If you liked this set of questions, here are some other options for you to explore.
The Latecomer: In Jean Hanff Korelitz’s captivating novel, the wealthy Oppenheimer family’s delicate balance is shattered when a fourth child unexpectedly enters their lives. With themes of family, privilege, and hidden secrets, this immersive tale weaves a web of intrigue and emotion that will leave readers spellbound.
Take My Hand: In 1973 Alabama, nurse Civil Townsend fights for justice when she uncovers a shocking secret at a family planning clinic. Decades later, as she prepares for retirement, the past resurfaces, reminding her that some stories must never be forgotten.
Of Mice and Men: Discover the timeless tale of companionship and dreams in ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, follow two unlikely friends as they navigate a world of hopes, hardships, and the tragic pursuit of the American Dream.
1984: In George Orwell’s timeless dystopian masterpiece, “1984,” Big Brother’s watchful eye controls every aspect of society. Join Winston Smith as he dares to challenge the oppressive regime, delving into a world of surveillance, thought control, and the fight for freedom.
Ugly Love: When Tate meets pilot Miles, their attraction sparks an irresistible arrangement—no love, just sex. But as they struggle to stick to the rules, hearts break, promises crumble, and love turns ugly.