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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Ladies' Lending Library

1. What does the reaction of the members of the Ladies' Lending Library to the film, Cleopatra, and the much-publicized extramarital affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton reveal about the condition of their own marriages?

2. Why does Darka's presence at the Martyn cottage threaten so many of the wives of Kalyna Beach, and how does her presence affect the husbands?

3. How does Laura's obsession with the figure of Cleopatra relate to her own adolescent anxieties?

4. What does Chucha Marta's behavior toward Bonnie reveal about her strengths and weaknesses? To what extent is her portrayal by the author sympathetic?

5. Why does the summer idyll of Kalyna Beach serve as a domestic nightmare for the many spouses who spend their weeks apart and their weekends together?

6. Why do so many ghosts and memories from Ukraine, "the Old Place," pervade the community in The Ladies' Lending Library, and how do they affect your appreciation of the issues these characters face as first- and second-generation immigrants?

7. How does the discovery of Mrs. Shkurka's brutal treatment of her daughter, Anastasia, bring Laura and Sonia closer, and why is that closeness only temporary?

8. How is the seaside setting—with its implicit embrace of physicality and liberation— responsible for the overtly sexual nature of many of the incidents in which the inhabitants of Kalyna Beach find themselves?

9. To what extent does Sasha's fear that Peter Metelsky's relationship with Nadia Senchenko will cause the web of relationships of Kalyna Beach residents to unravel seem likely?

10. How are the themes of sexual desire and longing, wish-fulfillment, and self-denial significant to the plot of The Ladies' Lending Library?

The Ladies' Lending Library
by Janice Kulyk Keefer

  • Publication Date: January 6, 2009
  • Paperback: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0061479071
  • ISBN-13: 9780061479076