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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

In a Perfect World

1. Numerous fairytales are interwoven with the plot of In a Perfect World. What are some of these tales, and how do they function within the story? How might this novel be read, itself, as a kind of fairytale?

2. The unfolding of the love story between Jiselle and Mark is cut short with his quarantine and is soon overshadowed by her life with his children. How does this become its own romance, and in what ways does this shift comment on expectations regarding love and marriage?

3. How do you feel about the changes in Jiselle's character as the novel unfolds? How do you feel about the way she handles and reacts to the events of the novel, particularly the demands of step-motherhood?

4. Joy is a character who is never encountered in the novel, but who seems important nonetheless. How do you interpret her shadow-character, and how does Jiselle's ‘relationship' to her change during the course of the novel?

5. The author researched the Black Death in writing this book. Which events seem historically familiar? Which details seem to parallel contemporary concerns and events? Does the plot seem more fabulist than realistic? Can you imagine the kind of future the author has imagined?

6. Did you see Mark as a sympathetic character? Was Jiselle foolish to marry him?

7. At which moments in the novel do we see Jiselle's relationship to the children changing? Do you feel that, at some points, they become ‘her' children? If so, where in the novel does this seem to occur?

8. Jiselle and the children are very isolated in this novel. Does this seem realistic to you? How do you feel about the few additional characters who figure in it: Jiselle's mother, Paul Temple, Tara Temple, the Schmidts?

9. What does the title, In a Perfect World, say to you about the themes and structure of the novel?

10. Is this an apocalyptic novel? What is your interpretation of the ending?

In a Perfect World
by Laura Kasischke

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2009
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0061766119
  • ISBN-13: 9780061766114