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Book Discussion Questions

1. The pursuit of one’s dream is a crucial theme in this novel, where everyone in the Rothman family has a dream.

How did Sophie’s dream shape her life?
What was Harry’s dream? How did he sublimate his dream?
What obstacles did Jeanie have to overcome to achieve her dream?
How did Albert’s pursuit of his dream change his life and his relationship with his mother and father?
What dream did Ruthie have? How did her tragic experience shape the outcome of her dream?

2. What is Sophie’s tragic flaw?

3. Why do you think Sophie’s obsession with money was so twisted?

4. Was Sophie capable of love? Do you think she loved Harry? Lev? Her children? Why was she unable to show affection?

5. How did Sophie’s relationship with her own mother shape her feelings about hoarding money? How did Sophie feel about her own mother’s love for her? How did she come to confuse money with love?

6. How does Sophie’s relationship with her sister, Ida, contribute to a deeper understanding of Sophie’s character?

7. Describe the relationship between Jeanie and her brother and sister. Why did the siblings have such a strong bond with each other?

8. In what ways does Sophie demonstrate business acumen?

9. How do Sophie’s actions precipitate tragic events for:

her daughter, Ruthie?
her husband, Harry?
her daughter, Jeanie?
David Kramer?

10. What were the consequences of Sophie’s lie and deception? How does she rationalize her affair with Lev? How does she rationalize the tragic events she caused at the end?

11. There are sometimes glimmers of remorse in Sophie.

How does Sophie demonstrate her protectiveness toward her sister, Ida?
What is Sophie’s reaction when she looks at Ruthie dressed as a bride?
How does Sophie react when she realizes who Jeanie is planning to marry?

12. Why did Harry’s feelings for Sophie change?

13. In what way was Harry responsible for the misfortunes that befell his children?

14. Why was Harry so unforgiving toward his son when he left to go to Hollywood?

15. Why did Jeanie refuse to recognize her feelings for Mark?  When does she understand that she’s in love with him?

16. There are many ironies in this novel. When Jeanie returns home from Israel to tell her family about her plans to marry David and move to Israel, the narrative reads: “Nothing her [Jeanie’s] mother could do would hurt her again. She had everything she wanted now.” Why is this dramatic irony?

17. Who is the last victim? What does the title of the novel mean?

18. When Jeanie confronts Sophie at the end of the story, what does Jeanie finally realize about her mother? How does Jeanie react when she understands the truth about Sophie’s character?

19. At the end of the story, Sophie tells Jeanie, “… the money is all for you. Someday it will be yours and Ruthie’s and Albert’s.” What does this statement reveal about Sophie?

20. How does the theme of this novel parallel the Greek tragedy, Oedipus The King?