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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Wit's End

1. In the first pages of the novel, Rima recalls having once read that “when someone important to you dies, they come back in a dream to say good-bye” --- but that she has yet to hear from any of her lost family members. How does this sense of unresolved loss motivate her actions throughout the story? Is Oliver’s “guidance” to Rima as she unravels her father’s past a form of the “good-bye” she has been waiting for?

2. Addison says that novels will be an unreliable source of information for future historians because “No one in novels watches TV.” Wit’s End, however, includes numerous references to television and television watching. How do these references add to the novel’s sense of realism? What do the characters’ preferences in movies and television shows reveal about them?

3. Discuss the author’s depiction of Santa Cruz. How does she evoke the unique atmosphere and character of this city? How important is this setting to the story? Could you imagine it taking place in another locale?

4. Rima returns many times to a question her father once asked her: “Would you want to be remembered as you were or as better than you were?” Consider the overall themes of the novel in the context of this question. How do you think each of the characters would answer it?

5. Rima’s feelings for Martin remain in flux throughout the book: “she liked him and then she didn’t like him and then she liked him.” Ultimately, she realizes that her grief over Oliver’s death --- and Martin’s similarities to him --- is the source of her ambivalence. How do you think their relationship will develop? Does she truly think of Martin as her “little brother,” or might they eventually develop a romantic relationship?

6. Consider the character of Pamela Price. Though she goes to some lengths to demonstrate that blackmail is not her motivation, her infatuation with Addison’s past clearly borders on obsession. Is she dangerously deranged, or simply an overly zealous fan? If Addison had encountered her at Holy City instead of Rima, do you think the scene could have turned violent?

7. Wit’s End is set during a very specific moment in recent history: the 2006 mid-term elections that saw Democrats take the majority in the United States Congress. Why do you think the author chose to highlight these events in the novel? How do the characters’ discussions of political events inform our understanding of them?

8. Discuss the author’s use of humor. Why did the author choose to employ wit as much as pathos in telling this story? Is the novel’s title ironic?

Wit's End
by Karen Joy Fowler

  • Publication Date: April 28, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452290066
  • ISBN-13: 9780452290068