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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)

1. What do you think life in the Pen was like before Alfonse’s arrival? What changed when Alfonse arrived?

2. Alfonse tells Cecibel that “love is not passion.... Love is sweet and good and righteous. Passion is wild and messy and dangerous.” What is the driving force behind Alfonse’s relationships with Olivia, Judith, Cornelius and Cecibel? Is it love or passion?

3. “If you go by what the critics and sales figures say, my greatest work was And the Ladies Sang. A good book. One I’m proud of, naturally. Nineteen eighty-four was a powerful time for women, and the book spoke to several generations fighting the good fight. But if you’re asking which book rests most kindly in my heart, it’s Green Apples for Stewart.” On the strength of this, what do you think Olivia’s greatest works were about?

4. Throughout the novel, Cecibel uses her hair to conceal her scarring and to maintain a sense of “vanity she no longer had a right to.” Does Cecibel hide her scars purely for her own vanity, or does she have other reasons for hiding her scars?

5. Cecibel serves as the muse behind Aldo and Cecilia’s story. In what ways does Cecibel inspire the characters in Alfonse, Olivia and Switch’s story? What are the parallels between Cecibel and Cecilia?

6. Cecibel thinks of herself as a monster. Is Cecibel a monster? What makes her view herself this way?

7. Finlay was sent to prison for murdering his local teacher after enduring years of abuse. Do you think Finlay deserved to go to prison for his actions? How do the other characters in the novel view Finlay in light of his crime?

8. Discuss whether Cecibel is an employee or a resident of the Pen. Are the other staff members simply employees, or are they residents?

9. “[Cornelius] and I dreamed up this place when we were young men conquering the literary world. We took it from the greats. Faulkner, Joyce, Cather, Parker. We robbed them blind and flew their tattered flags in their faces.” Do you think the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly lived up to Cornelius and Alfonse’s expectations?

10. What do you think happens to the characters in the years following the novel’s end?

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)
by Terri-Lynne DeFino

  • Publication Date: June 12, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062742671
  • ISBN-13: 9780062742674