“Remember what it feels like to be 17? Hamann does, and her heroine, Eveline Auerbach, sounds like somebody many of us knew—or were.”
“Eveline has a deadpan delivery Holden Caulfield might envy.”
“A realistic, resonant, and universal story.”
Remember what it feels like to be 17? Hamann does, and her heroine, Eveline Auerbach, sounds like somebody many of us knew—or were. Bright but disaffected, interested in pleasing adults but also rebellious, Eveline has a deadpan delivery Holden Caulfield might envy. “You could hardly tell by looking at my mother that she was a stranger to providence,” she observes. As the book opens, Eveline is a senior whose principal instructor in angst is her boyfriend, Jack, but she soon abandons him for the sexier small-time boxer turned drama teacher, Harrison Rourke; later when Rourke disappears, she takes up with a controlling rich kid masquerading as her protector. Hamann’s depiction of time and place is stunningly accurate, right down to the clubs these teenagers frequent and the song lyrics that play in their heads. At times you can’t help wishing Eveline would just, well, relax. But she wouldn’t be a typical searching postadolescent then, would she? And Hamann would not have produced such a realistic, resonant, and universal story.
—O MAGAZINE: Readers Guide
1. The novel begins with a description of Eveline Auerbach and Kate Cassirer, teenagers who have been best friends since childhood. Discuss the nature of their friendship. Discuss the role of female friendship in the novel.
2. Discuss the dissolving bonds of Eveline's early friendships as she journeys from the relative safety of childhood to the relative dangers, instability, and compromise of adulthood.
3. Evie goes from being a poor girl living freely to being a wealthy young woman living a compromised life and sacrificing opportunities for fully realized life and love. What does the author seem to be saying about aspirations?
4. There are three men in Evie's life: Jack Fleming, Mark Ross, and Harrison Rourke. Discuss her relationship with each. Why would the author choose to describe the life of a young woman in terms of the men she loves?
5. When Eveline meets Harrison Rourke, she experiences a type of epiphany. She feels herself a part of life, and of living in a way she never had previously. How would you describe what it is that she experiences and what it means to her?
6. The use of voice in this book has been described as Holden-Caulfield-like. Talk about the importance of voice, and what the internal isolation does for the main character. Is her voice truthful? Does she reveal everything?
7. The death of Jack represents a turning point for Eveline, and yet they had been separated for years at the time of his death. Discuss what the loss of Jack means to her character.
8. Evie has a complicated relationship with her own mother, Irene, an intellectual and emotional free spirited rebel spawned from 1960s counter culture. How does she seem to come to terms with this in the end?
9. Anthropology has been compared to literary classics. Discuss what makes a book a classic and whether or not you feel this book has the makings of one.
10. This book is a fictional attempt to "observe" a girl in American culture. If this is an "anthropology of an American girl," what does the novel appear to be saying about being an American, or a girl, and an American girl?
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