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Discussion Questions and Welcoming of New Book

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message 1: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly Lonetree | 13 comments Mod
Hello, everyone!

We are officially in a new month...October! How spooky... I just want to thank all of you for reading this past month, and hope that you can take the time to answer any or all of the following discussion questions:

1. Merry talks about how conflicting oral histories, urban legends, pop culture, the Internet, and media have affected her memory of the events she experienced. Discuss the challenges of telling a story in the information age. How does our culture's saturation in information and disinformation add to the feelings of dread, paranoia, and horror within the novel?

2. Marjorie and Merry's sibling relationship is as complex as it is heartbreaking. Discuss the power dynamics and nuances of their relationship. Talk about how your own experience as either an older or younger sibling has shaped who you've become.

3. Stories are how Marjorie and Merry communicate, and they play a central role in their relationship. As an adult, Merry has a writing job that requires her to deconstruct stories. How do the stories the sisters tell each other mirror and inform their relationship? Discuss how story shapes Merry as an adult, and how the stories we read, watch, and are told shape us all.

4. Within "The Last Final Girl" blog posts, the TV show "The Possession" and so many other classic or typical horror narratives are described as being thematically reactionary; an attempt to reestablish the status quo. Discuss how this novel explores an/or subverts those expectations and compare/contrast to other horror novels and movies.

5. Could a reality show like "The Possession" be filmed today? Would there be controversy and/or a backlash? Would you watch it?

6. The happenings within the Barrett household closely reflect scenes from other horror novels and movies, as is pointed out within "The Last Final Girl" blog. What was the author's intent? Did you notice any similarities to other books/movies that weren't discussed in the blog?

7. Discuss how the author uses Merry's vivid and consistent use of imagination and pretend play to build her character, and how those games either impact the plot or foreshadow events to come.

8. The parents, John and Sarah, make many decisions that end in disaster. Despite knowing the consequences, are their decisions still defendable? Can it be argued that they were always acting in the best interest of both of their children? Does the parents' deteriorating relationship mirror Marjorie's descent and/or exacerbate it?

9. Many of the key scenes in the novel take place with the Barrett family sitting at the kitchen table. Discuss why the author chose such a simple setting for some of the most explosive scenes.

10. Merry has important relationships with three women: Marjorie; her mother, Sarah; and the writer, Rachel. Compare and contrast the roles of these characters, their attitudes, and how they interact with and impact Merry.

11. When Rachel implies that what happens on-screen in a horror movie is worse than what she experienced in real life, on page 112 Merry says, "What does that say about you or anyone else that my sister's nationally televised psychotic break and descent into schizophrenia wasn't horrific enough?" Discuss this quote being the potential theme of the book. Is the author making a comment about horror movies and our attitude toward them, a general lack of societal empathy, or something else?

12. Ken and Rachel are presented as, if not friends of Merry, at least the most sympathetic ears to her situation. Compare and contrast those relationships and how both Ken and Rachel go about the sticky task of balancing their conflict of interest with selling a story.

13. During the rite of exorcism Marjorie says, "I am not a creature. I'm--I'm Marjorie, a fourteen-year-old-girl, scared of everything, who doesn't know why she hears voices that tell her confusing things." Is Marjorie possessed or suffering from a psychotic break/schizophrenia? Using the quote and the evidence culled from the rest of the novel, build your case and defend it.

14. Discuss the following question posed within "The Last Final Girl" blog, comparing "The Possession" TV show to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic story "The Yellow Wallpaper": "Is the Barrett House telling us that our own diabolically challenged and/or mentally ill Marjorie is the young woman trapped in the room with the yellow wallpaper, or the metaphorical oppressed woman in the yellow wallpaper who yearns to be free?"

15. Is there any significance to Merry's breath being visible in the coffee shop before she leaves? Discuss the possible implications of your interpretation of the ending.

16. What book or movie or story has scared you the most?


Let's all welcome our next read chosen by Chelsey titled, "The Historian", by Elizabeth Kostova! I am certainly VERY excited to start reading this book, and hope that you are, too! As a reminder, when your book month comes up, you are more than welcome to lead the way for discussions and such. If you don't want to, let me know and I will lead it for you. Chelsey...take the stage!


message 2: by Kit (new)

Kit Doering (kitlanholster) | 8 comments Woo!!!! I’ll get my response to the September book questions in later this week. Busy with homework at the moment! Very excited for the Historian!


message 3: by Kit (new)

Kit Doering (kitlanholster) | 8 comments Okay! Here are my answers to the questions:

1. Merry talks about how conflicting oral histories, urban legends, pop culture, the Internet, and media have affected her memory of the events she experienced. Discuss the challenges of telling a story in the information age. How does our culture's saturation in information and disinformation add to the feelings of dread, paranoia, and horror within the novel?

I think the biggest problem with telling this story in the information age is possibly desensitization and information inaccuracy. We have so much information at the tips of our fingers that we take for granted the accuracy of it, but we are overloaded with so much information that Merry’s story may not seem so interesting any more.

2. Marjorie and Merry's sibling relationship is as complex as it is heartbreaking. Discuss the power dynamics and nuances of their relationship. Talk about how your own experience as either an older or younger sibling has shaped who you've become.

Marjorie had the upper hand in their relationship, but I believe she also really loved Merry. She twistedly teased Merry about not eating the spaghetti sauce, but I believe she purposely had Merry put the poison in the sauce so that Merry would still be alive. Marjorie’s love turned very wrong.
As an older sibling, I think I had the upper hand in my family, and was usually in charge when we were left to ourselves; but out parents treated us the same with punishments and love.

3. Stories are how Marjorie and Merry communicate, and they play a central role in their relationship. As an adult, Merry has a writing job that requires her to deconstruct stories. How do the stories the sisters tell each other mirror and inform their relationship? Discuss how story shapes Merry as an adult, and how the stories we read, watch, and are told shape us all.

I believe story has shaped me a lot. I learn from the messages the stories tell. It’s the same for Merry, her interpretations of the stories shaped her actions in the book. As an adult she lives a rather secluded life because of her own story.

4. Within "The Last Final Girl" blog posts, the TV show "The Possession" and so many other classic or typical horror narratives are described as being thematically reactionary; an attempt to reestablish the status quo. Discuss how this novel explores and/or subverts those expectations and compare/contrast to other horror novels and movies.

I really enjoyed how this book compared the actual events to what “Hollywood” exaggerates. My feelings as I read were kind of all over the place. It was frightening to hear the “Hollywood” version of the events, but not as disturbing as when Merry told the real events. There is always something more disturbing about a story when you find out it’s real.

5. Could a reality show like "The Possession" be filmed today? Would there be controversy and/or a backlash? Would you watch it?

HBO would film it. I’m sure there would be controversy; especially when people find out that Marjorie isn’t getting serious help. That would be considered child negligence.

6. The happenings within the Barrett household closely reflect scenes from other horror novels and movies, as is pointed out within "The Last Final Girl" blog. What was the author's intent? Did you notice any similarities to other books/movies that weren't discussed in the blog?

I think the authors intent was to reflect the horrors from movies and compare them to the horrors of real life. Yes, movies are scary, but they are just made up and not real; but real life will always be scarier because it’s something that could and has happened to people we know. My sister can watch many scary movies, but refuses to watch shows like Law and Order SVU because it’s too real.

7. Discuss how the author uses Merry's vivid and consistent use of imagination and pretend play to build her character, and how those games either impact the plot or foreshadow events to come.

I guess I didn’t really see any foreshadowing. I tried to, but I probably missed it. I do think her imagination was kind of a reflection of Marjorie’s schizophrenia. Merry could imagine and see stories, but understood they were pretend, Marjorie lost the ability to see reality.

8. The parents, John and Sarah, make many decisions that end in disaster. Despite knowing the consequences, are their decisions still defendable? Can it be argued that they were always acting in the best interest of both of their children? Does the parents' deteriorating relationship mirror Marjorie's descent and/or exacerbate it?

I think Sarah would have been able to make better decisions if she had been stronger against John, but he was too selfish and arrogant; and constantly thwarting Sarah’s decisions with his own. This threw her down a very depressed road, and her mental state became no better than Marjorie’s. When John took Marjorie to the priest after Sarah specifically said ‘no’, I was pretty livid.

9. Many of the key scenes in the novel take place with the Barrett family sitting at the kitchen table. Discuss why the author chose such a simple setting for some of the most explosive scenes.

I’m just guessing, but since eating dinner together as a family is typically the most ‘family’ thing to do, I think it makes sense to have the awful scenes there. It represents the destruction of a family, which is actually what happened at the end. Dinner destroys them.

10. Merry has important relationships with three women: Marjorie; her mother, Sarah; and the writer, Rachel. Compare and contrast the roles of these characters, their attitudes, and how they interact with and impact Merry.

I think they are all very similar in respect to their relationships with Merry, all three of them expressed love to her. They were kind, nice, caring; but then left her/betrayed her in the end.
Sarah-Showed love and caring, but once depression set in she didn’t have much time for her. Merry became a nusance.
Marjorie-She spent a lot of time with Merry, making up stories and playing games; but her love turned twisted and mean. Eventually she killed herself and her family; leaving Merry all alone.
Rachel-She was compassionate and caring with Merry, but her whole purpose was to gain information for her book. Merry realized she’d probably never see Rachel again after the interviews were over.

11. When Rachel implies that what happens on-screen in a horror movie is worse than what she experienced in real life, on page 112 Merry says, "What does that say about you or anyone else that my sister's nationally televised psychotic break and descent into schizophrenia wasn't horrific enough?" Discuss this quote being the potential theme of the book. Is the author making a comment about horror movies and our attitude toward them, a general lack of societal empathy, or something else?

Lack of societal empathy is huge in our country. When I was little the phrase, ‘schizo’ was thrown around casually to pronounce someone as crazy in a negative way. Even today we don’t view mental illness as actual illnesses. It’s treated as, “if you can’t see it, then it’s not real.”

12. Ken and Rachel are presented as, if not friends of Merry, at least the most sympathetic ears to her situation. Compare and contrast those relationships and how both Ken and Rachel go about the sticky task of balancing their conflict of interest with selling a story.

Honestly, I can’t really say much for Rachel; but I always felt like Ken was having an affair with Sarah. If she had lived, I think Sarah would have ditched John for Ken.

13. During the rite of exorcism Marjorie says, "I am not a creature. I'm--I'm Marjorie, a fourteen-year-old-girl, scared of everything, who doesn't know why she hears voices that tell her confusing things." Is Marjorie possessed or suffering from a psychotic break/schizophrenia? Using the quote and the evidence culled from the rest of the novel, build your case and defend it.

Marjorie is suffering from schizophrenia. If she were ‘possessed’ it would have thrown off the whole purpose of the book; determining reality vs. fiction.

14. Discuss the following question posed within "The Last Final Girl" blog, comparing "The Possession" TV show to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic story "The Yellow Wallpaper": "Is the Barrett House telling us that our own diabolically challenged and/or mentally ill Marjorie is the young woman trapped in the room with the yellow wallpaper, or the metaphorical oppressed woman in the yellow wallpaper who yearns to be free?"

I don’t really understand this question.

15. Is there any significance to Merry's breath being visible in the coffee shop before she leaves? Discuss the possible implications of your interpretation of the ending.

I think it’s just the writer’s way of being creepy. Maybe it’s supposed to mean that she’s exhaling the ghosts of her past or something. Now that her story is being told, they are moving on. But I’m pretty sure the author is just messing with us.

16. What book or movie or story has scared you the most?

The Ring. The story wasn’t really scary, but suspenseful audio mixed with creepy footage always gets to me.


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