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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Count the Ways

1. In Chapter 3, Eleanor muses, “Sometimes you leave a place because you don’t like being there. Sometimes you have to leave because you love it too much.” (p.21) What does it say about Eleanor that she walked away from her home --- the home that represented all that she longed for: family, love and security? What elements actually make a “home”?

2. When Eleanor was growing up, she named her parents’ bouts of unpredictable behavior “Crazyland.” Years later, whenever Eleanor was overwhelmed by her emotions, she, too, entered Crazyland. Can you relate to the things Eleanor did while she was in Crazyland?

3. Eleanor spent years unable to forgive Cam for Toby’s accident. What do you make of Eleanor’s resentment toward Cam? Should she have let go of her anger? Would you have?

4. Long-term relationships require work, commitment and sacrifice. Is it inevitable that passion and love eventually fade? As their children --- and they --- got older, could Cam and Eleanor have found a new type of love, one that was more accepting of each other and their circumstances? Cam was able to accept the accident; the children were able to accept the divorce. Yet Eleanor could not find peace and acceptance for many years. Why?

5. Do you think Eleanor made the right choice by “protecting” her children from the truth of their father’s affair with Coco? How much should children be told about the reasons behind their parents’ divorce?

6. In Chapter 34, Eleanor said, “For me, being a feminist means manifesting the strength and confidence and tenacity to pursue whatever it is you most want to do with your life. In my case, the goal was having a family. I’m doing that. If I don’t get to make art that much at the moment, I can live with it. Nobody gets everything in life. You have to make compromises.” (p. 169) Do women today still face the same struggles Eleanor did in the 1980s? Do women still have to choose between staying at home or having a fulfilling career? Were Eleanor’s struggles endemic to all women, or were they a result of her traumatic upbringing?

7. Was Toby’s accident Cam’s fault? Was it fair of Eleanor to blame her husband for what happened? What does “fair” mean in a marriage? In a family?

8. Do you think Eleanor made the right decision in ending her relationship with Timmy Pouliot?

9. On page 242, we read: “He [Cam] wasn’t nostalgic about their past... Eleanor remembered everything and never let go.” How much did this difference in attitude doom their relationship? What caused the end of their marriage --- Cam’s affair with Coco? Toby’s accident? Or were Eleanor and Cam headed for divorce no matter what?

10. What do you think of Ursula’s reaction when Eleanor tells her that Cam had been sleeping with Coco? When an adult child stops speaking to their parent, is that “child” being immature or setting fair boundaries? Do children owe their parents a relationship or forgiveness?

11. If a child of yours came to you to say he or she felt a need for gender transition, how would you feel? How do you think you would deal with the news, and with your relationship going forward?

12. Why does the story keep returning to the image of the cork people? What do you think the cork people represent?

Count the Ways
by Joyce Maynard

  • Publication Date: July 5, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062398288
  • ISBN-13: 9780062398284