I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with several book clubs who have read The Whole World. One of the first things that’s often discussed is which narrators people liked the best. There are usually lots of different opinions and lots of interesting points arise.

One character (not a narrator) has been an interesting lightning rod. Miranda, Polly’s mother, is under great stress throughout the book. (Generally, most of the characters in any novel will be under stress; their reactions under pressure and their journeys toward solution/escape are what plot is made of.) She makes some poor, but understandable, maternal choices in the face of those stresses.

This is the interesting thing: I have found that mothers of young children are often disgusted by her, and angry at her. They see plainly that what she does is wrong and, idealistically, see her as something quite apart from themselves. Mothers of grown children, however, have been compassionate towards her, and are more likely to nod in agreement with her motivations even as they disagree with her actions. Both, of course, are right.

One of my favorite lines from a review is “‘The Whole World’ shines as a potent look at the self-absorption and angst of youth and the regrets and doubts of middle age.” (The Richmond Times-Dispatch) I hadn’t consciously highlighted the contrasting ages of the major characters, but subconsciously it was an obvious theme, and one of the points of interest in the book. Similarly, I find that book clubs with a mix of ages have a built-in POV contrast that stirs up discussion and insight.

All of the book clubs I’ve met with have been generous and perceptive. Thanks for being wonderful hosts and sensitive, opinionated readers!

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