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Discussion questions for ‘A Separation’

Our November pick for the PBS NewsHour-New York Times book club, “Now Read This,” is Katie Kitamura’s psychological thriller “A Separation,” about a woman who learns that her estranged husband has gone missing in Greece, and tries to find him. Become a member of the book club by joining our Facebook group, or by signing up to our newsletter. Learn more about the book club here.

Katie Kitamura. Credit: Martha Reta

Credit: Martha Reta

Below are questions to help guide your discussions as you read the book over the next month. You can also submit your own questions for Kitamura on our Facebook page, which she will answer on the NewsHour broadcast at the end of the month. (And spoiler alert on questions further down, which mention the book’s ending.)

  1. Do you find the narrator likeable? Does that matter?
  2. Why do you think Kitamura doesn’t reveal any details about the narrator to us, besides that she is a translator, and “foreign”?
  3. What did you make of Kitamura’s writing style, which the New Yorker described as a “war on affect”?
  4. What role does Christopher’s charm play in the novel?
  5. Why do you think Christopher did not want the narrator to tell people that they were estranged?
  6. What role does the setting of the small rugged Greek town of Mani play in the novel, and the fact that the landscape was ravaged by fires?
  7. The dinner scene between the narrator and Maria is perhaps the most emotional in the book. What did Kitamura want us to take away from this scene?
  8. If Stefano knows that the narrator is not actually researching a book on mourning, why does he take her to his great aunt’s house anyway? What do you make of the woman’s performance as a crier, and the narrator’s instinct to leave money behind?
  9. How did the book make you think differently, if at all, about tourism, assumptions people make when abroad, and being an outsider in a foreign place?
  10. How does Christopher’s research on mourning presage what will later happen in the book?
  11. What was the significance of the infidelities ad from the London Review of Books?
  12. Do you believe Isabella truly loved her son Christopher? Did the narrator?
  13. How does a person’s death alter how we think about them? How did it alter how the narrator thought about Christopher?
  14. Who do you think killed Christopher? Why?
  15. Did the final pages of the book surprise you? How so?

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