Both compelling books are about women who step out of their marriages, but for very different reasons. One has lost the connection with her husband and therefore questions her own identity. The other reconnects with her first love, initially a childhood soulmate, despite her happy marriage. The neighborhoods in Tokyo, a beach town on Cape Cod, morals, romance, family and love…with humor and tragedy, these stories about relationships are worth getting lost in.
Fault Lines by Emily Itami tells the story of a Japanese housewife who finds sparks with a restaurateur who light her up after she nearly jumps off her balcony to avoid another day with her husband.
Book Club Questions
What are your initial impressions of Mizuki? Are you sympathetic to her circumstances? Why or why not?
What do we learn about Mizuki before she had children and settled down? In what ways do you think her past—family, passions, travel, career—influenced the person Mizuki is today?
At one point, Mizuki wonders: “Is it normal to fluctuate so quickly between feeling tender towards your husband and fervently wishing him a violent death?” Think about some of the moments of tenderness Mizuki and Tatsuya share. How would you characterize their marriage? Do you think these moments balance out the resentment and frustration Mizuki also feels towards her husband?
What do you think about Kiyoshi? How is he described? Do you think Mizuki would have pursued an extramarital affair with anyone, or was there something special about Kiyoshi?
Mizuki reflects on the contradictions of motherhood: “My children. My life’s work, my greatest loves, orchestrators of total psychological trauma and everyday destruction.” How does Mizuki feel about having children? Do you think Mizuki’s feelings about motherhood are universal? Did anything she said about her kids surprise you in any way?
If you could travel to Tokyo right now, what’s one thing from FAULT LINES you would want to experience?
Okay: the ending. Were you surprised by Mizuki’s choice? Why did she make this decision?
Think about other stories—books, TV, movies—where mothers have had extramarital affairs. In those stories, were the women punished? By comparison, do you think Mizuki gets off easy? Why do you think the author chose for Mizuki’s story to end the way it did?
Book Club Questions found at Bookclubz.com.
About Emily Itami
Emily Itami is the author of Fault Lines. She grew up in Tokyo before moving to London, where she now lives. She has been widely published as a freelance journalist and travel writer.
The Paper Palace
In The Paper Palace, Elle, now married with children, reconnects with her old boyfriend one summer night which re-surfaces the old magnetic pull of soulmates along with tragic memories from their youth.
Book Club Questions
In The Paper Palace, desire and duty are put to the test when Elle Bishop has to choose between the life she always believed she was meant to have with her oldest friend Jonas, and the life she has with her loving husband Peter. Compare and contrast Elle’s relationship with both. What does she get from each?
The novel is set in Cape Cod, a setting the author describes with vivid intimacy. In what ways has this place grounded and shaped the lives of the Bishops?
The Paper Palace unfolds over twenty-four hours, and fifty years: one day in Elle’s life, and the moments that lead to this day. What do we gain through multiple timelines that we otherwise would not?
In the multigenerational story, we see the reverberations of the choices made by grandparents and parents, and the scars they have left on Elle herself. In what way do those scars reveal themselves, and is it possible to break the cycle?
The individuals who find themselves at The Paper Palace are as susceptible to the elements as the house is. Consider adult Elle and Jonas’s intimate beach scene, their dangerous sailing trip, etc. What role do nature and the weather play in the story? How is the outside, natural world used to echo Elle’s interior journey?
Secrets are at the heart of the novel: the acts that create them, the decisions to keep them hidden. What is the outcome of keeping secrets and how do we see that play out within the novel? Why do you think Elle keeps the secrets that she does from her family? From Peter? Think of a time when you kept a secret. Was it harmful or helpful?
The novel is called The Paper Palace. Why? What parallels exist between the camp and the people who inhabit it?
How did you interpret the ending? For you, was the major plot of the novel about Elle choosing between two men, or choosing different versions of herself? Explain.
Book Club Questions provided by Penguin.
About Miranda Cowley Heller
Miranda Cowley Heller was raised in New York in a family of artists, writers and editors. Her grandfather was the literary critic Malcolm Cowley. After graduating from Harvard, she was the associate fiction and books editor at Cosmopolitan Magazine, before working for almost a decade as Senior Vice President and Head of Drama Series at HBO, developing and overseeing such shows as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, and Big Love, among others. She currently serves on the Board of the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC) in Provincetown, MA, and, until its merger with PEN America last year, was Treasurer and on the Board of PEN CENTER-USA. She divides her time between Los Angeles, London and Cape Cod. The Paper Palace is her first novel.
[…] (You can find great book club discussion questions for both books here.) […]