Sheryl Sorrentino will provide one complimentary copy of any of her novels to book clubs interested in reading and discussing her books. For your free book club copy, please email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the name of your book club, location, number of members, genres of interest (if any), the desired title, and the leader's contact information. Please also specify any review policies.
To get you started in your discussions, here are some suggested questions pertaining to Later With Myself:
1. Is adult Millie a likeable character? Why or why not?
2. Young Millie grows up in a bizarre and sexist home environment. Does this justify her outrageous conduct with men when she enters adolescence?
3. Does Lee have any redeeming qualities as a father? Why or why not?
4. Millie’s mother, Franny, is loving yet ineffectual. At one point in the story, Millie agrees with Lee that Franny is a “pathetic excuse for a mother.” What are the most important qualities for being a “good mother”—affection and devotion to one’s children? Effective discipline? Being a good role model? In what ways did Franny succeed or fail in exhibiting any or all of those qualities?
5. What was it about Franny’s nature or background that allowed her to marry a man like Lee?
6. Lee’s “pep talk” is a pivotal turning point in Millie’s life, and the seeming catalyst for her acting out sexually with men. In what ways did Lee’s confessions affect Millie’s view of herself?
7. How did Millie’s early relationship with her brothers influence her behavior? In what ways do her brothers’ adult lives reflect the damage done to them by Lee?
8. In Millie’s final therapy session, she bemoans the fact that her father never told her the truth about her half-brother, Vinnie. Would Millie have been better or worse off had she known this information as a child? Would it have been morally acceptable for Lee and Franny to have Millie donate her bone marrow to her half-brother?
9. What observations did you make about Millie’s relationship with Luke? Do Millie and Luke have a good marriage? In what ways was the damage done to Millie reflected in this most intimate relationship?
10. Is Millie a good mother? Why or why not?
11. In Chapter 28, Millie takes ownership of her actions, and poses some pointed questions to “her men,” and herself: “Did my seeming willingness to bargain my body . . . justify their actions? Did the fact that my father was a deranged liar justify mine?” How would you answer these questions?
12. In Chapter 30, Millie tells her friend, Betsy, that she someday intends to tell Nichole about her adolescent pregnancy. Is this a good idea? Why or why not?
13. Although Later With Myself is narrated in the first person by Millie throughout, she shifts her point of view in several chapters, as though inside her parents' heads. What did you think of this plot device? Do you agree that Millie “earned the right” to tell her parents’ story in this way?
And here are suggested questions for The Floater:
1. In what ways does Norma’s ethnicity and socioeconomic status cause her to struggle to realize her true worth? In what ways did childhood abuse contribute to her personal and professional struggles later in life?
2. One reviewer observed that “Norma is a lonely woman who's kept herself so busy she doesn't even recognize her own loneliness.” Why do you think this is?
3. Why did Norma continue to protect and support her younger sister, even after she showed Norma no appreciation? Why do you think their mother, Leticia, favored Inez over Norma?
4. How did you feel about Leticia’s sudden and untimely death? How might the story have developed differently if Leticia had remained alive while Norma tried to pursue a romantic relationship with Oscar?
5. Oscar has been described as a “bit of a hothead,” as well as “overly aggressive and insensitive at times.” Do you agree? If so, does his race have anything to do with your characterization?
6. Norma keeps waiting for Oscar to break her heart like her previous boyfriends. Were you, as the reader, also expecting this to happen? In what ways did Oscar have Norma's interests at heart, and in what ways did he try to safeguard his own happiness and well-being?
7. Oscar clearly acts as a catalyst for Norma to challenge the firm and confront her personal demons. In what ways does Norma motivate Oscar to move forward in his own life?
8. Oscar urges Norma to quit her job after he presents her with the infamous memo. Did it bother you that Norma stayed with the firm, even after she learned the truth about her prospects there?
9. As a law clerk at RLS the prior summer, Norma had to have seen the way partners treated the support staff. Do you think she recognized this, but looked the other way because she aspired to become one of them? If so, is it ever okay to ignore the mistreatment of others in order to pursue one’s own goals?
10. Can you accept, as Norma asserts, that “the underbelly of the secretaries’ universe really was that different from the exalted, cloistered ecosystem inhabited by attorneys (and their wannabes)”? If not, why not?
11. Despite Norma's short-lived affair with her landlord, Angelo, she never had a real relationship with a man. As a result, she thinks men just want sex and that sex is something you use, as a woman, to get what you want or to appease a man. How did this dynamic affect her relationship with Oscar?
12. How did you feel about the fact that Norma really only began to stand up for herself and flourish after she meets Oscar? Did this approach strike you as sexist? Why or why not?
13. How does Oscar try to deal with his own family responsibilities while attempting to incorporate Norma into his life and meet her needs? How does he help confront her past intimacy issues, and work through the pain and fear of the past and learn to trust?
14. How believable did you find the lawyers in Norma’s law firm? Do you accept that such characters—while admittedly exaggerated—could still exist in today’s workplaces? Why or why not?
15. Do you think Norma made wise decisions at the end of the book where her relationship with Oscar and her career are concerned? Why or why not?
The following discussion questions appear at the end of Stage Daughter:
1. In the Chapter Two, Razia accuses her mother of being a lesbian. When do you think Sonya first begins to question and ultimately accept her own sexuality?
2. Sonya is leery of Aziz throughout this saga. She fears he might harm Razia and is threatened by him wanting to spend time with Raz. How much of her concern do you attribute to protective parenting and how much to the fact that Aziz is Muslim? Did you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Sonya’s reservations about Aziz? Were you suspicious of his motives?
3. The morning after Razia locates Aziz, Sonya lectures her about the inherent differences between men and women, claiming that acting like a father is “optional” for men, whereas women have a mandatory biological imperative to behave like mothers to their children. Do you agree with her?
4. Is Razia “troubled,” as Aziz asserts? Or does she have “typical twelve-year-old issues,” as Sonya claims?
5. When Razia allows herself to be choked by a boy, Aziz accuses Sonya of being a “fucked-up single parent.” He also labels her at various times “abusive,” “incompetent,” “careless,” and “im-prudent.” Are his accusations valid? In what ways is Sonya a good mother? A bad one?
6. Was Aziz right or wrong to pay the school $1,000 to keep Razia from getting expelled? Why?
7. Aziz asserts that Sonya withheld information that he was about to become a father in order to punish him and maintain control over their child (rather than the selfless motivations she professes). Was Sonya wrong not to tell Aziz he had a daughter? Do you agree or disagree with her reasons? Do you believe them?
8. Sonya is clearly an angry and resentful woman whose closest relationships are largely antagonistic. Why do you think this is? What is she most angry about? How do you think Sonya’s being biracial and/or adopted affected her interpretation of the people and events in her life?
9. Aziz clearly places a high priority on being a good father and a good Muslim. And yet he cheats on his wife and lies to her. Were you able to reconcile these ethical anomalies? Why or why not?
10. Is Aziz unhappy in his marriage? Do you think he regrets foregoing a chance to marry for romantic love in favor of the stability (and banality) of a traditional arranged marriage? If so, is he justified in compensating for that lack of passion by seeking it elsewhere?
11. Sonya and Aziz are both attractive individuals. In the past, Sonya has utilized her looks to best advantage in her dealings with men. How has Aziz’s attractiveness impacted his life? Do you agree that good-looking people are treated more favorably than average-looking or unattractive ones? In what ways?
12. How does Sonya and Aziz’s relationship change as the story progresses? How about the relationship between Aziz and Razia?
13. Both Aziz and Fadwa accuse Sonya of “seducing” him. Did Sonya cross a line by pursuing Aziz over his supposed objections? If so, how does that line differ for men and women—if at all? Does the fact that Aziz is Muslim make Sonya’s actions more or less blameworthy? What about Aziz’s responses?
14. In Chapter Seventeen, Aziz remarks that Sonya “chose” him to father her child. What does he mean by this, and do you agree with his statement?
15. Aziz feels no trepidation about introducing Razia to Islam over Sonya’s objections. While he later comes to acknowledge that Sonya is entitled to “live her life as she sees fit,” he also believes that, as Razia’s father, he is “equally entitled to set a different example for her.” Do you agree or disagree with his logic?
16. Aziz believes that “Allah keeps no secrets from us, if we only open our eyes.” In what ways might you have turned a blind eye to things that needed attention in your life?
17. Sonya believes that her adoptive parents are racist. Do you agree? Why or why not?
18. Sonya is the “black sheep” in her Jewish family because she bore an Arab man’s child out of wedlock. Does her parents’ disappointment in this and her other life choices justify them keeping their distance from their daughter? Why else do you suppose the Schoenbergs might have chosen not to be supportive grandparents to Razia?
19. In Chapter Thirty-Seven, Fadwa gives a rather impassioned speech in which she recognizes Aziz as “a good husband and father;” acknowledges that he loves her “in his way;” and concedes that, as her husband, he is entitled to her “loyalty and forgive-ness.” Do you agree? At the same time, she makes clear that, since Aziz does not love her the way she craves, her affection will not be forthcoming in the future. How do you think Fadwa wants to be loved by Aziz? What did she mean when she accused him of “embracing” the consequences of his cheating and “enjoying what his infidelity has wrought”? Was her decision to remain married to Aziz driven by religious conviction, financial necessity, pragmatism, or something else entirely?
20. At the end of the story, Sonya and Razia each seem to get a second chance at a previously failed relationship (Sonya with Nannette, and Razia with Korey). What do you suppose becomes of Aziz’s marriage to Fadwa? Do you think he is able to win back her heart? Does he continue to cheat?
21. The last chapter of Stage Daughter finds all three main characters pursuing a personal or professional objective. Do you think all of them achieve their goals? Why or why not?
Sheryl Sorrentino is happy to suggest questions for her second novel, An Unexpected Exile. Please email the author at email@example.com for a list of discussion topics.