Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Club: The Interestings (Discussion)


Despite how much she wants to, Jules cannot make herself fall in love with Ethan. Do you wish she were able to? Do you think Jules wishes she could? What about Ethan?

I think there are moments throughout the book when Jules wished she’d fallen in love with Ethan but I don’t think it had anything to do with her heart. They are clearly great as friends and I think she liked it that way except in moments when the financial disparity between them pushed her to wish she’d fallen in love with him. It was also more emphasized when she needed him—with the apartment purchase and during Dennis’ depression. However, in moments when things didn’t seem so rosy (when Ethan and Ash’s son was diagnosed with Autism and Ethan wasn’t strong enough to go to the appointment, when Ash and Ethan got divorced, when Ethan found out about Goodman staying connected to the family, etc.). As for Ethan, I think he’d have loved to end up with Jules. He always loved her and cherished her opinion. I’m glad the book didn’t end with Jules and Ethan getting together. I loved their friendship and the book was so good is how realistic it was. Love is unrequited all the time. Things are rarely tied up in a neat package and I love that the book showcases that.

Despite the well–quoted sentiment that “you can’t go home again,” Jules tries to return to the place that felt like her spiritual, emotional, and artistic home. Are there circumstances in life in which you can go home again successfully? Is Jules foolish to give up her current life for something much more uncertain? What positive changes does the experience bring?

I got so excited when Jules decided to give up everything to go back to Spirit in the Woods. It spoke to a part of me that wants to escape the daily grind to go do something I am passionate about. I was let down when it didn’t work out for her but I got it. She wasn’t passionate about the camp. She was fondly remembering a simpler time in her life when she felt happy, supported and accepted. It also helps her realize that she has acceptance and more importantly, love right in front of her. It also helps her to stop romanticizing the experience so she can appreciate her husband and daughter rather than constantly comparing her life the lives of her friends.

I do think you can go home again but you can’t do it hoping it will cure all of your issues. We often remember home—whatever it may be—as greater than it was. In going back, you have to let go of expectation and be completely open to whatever the experience may bring.

What did you think of Dennis and of his relationship with Jules? Was it good? Did you sympathize more with him or with her?

I think they’re marriage had a good foundation but suffered in the face of Jules’ obsession with a few of The Interestings. She constantly obsessed over the differences in their lives and the rich/successful lives of her friends. Then, when Dennis fell back into depression, she felt bad but turned to friends more than she tried to sort through things with Dennis. I definitely sympathized with Dennis more. He had to deal with the weight of her jealously knowing he couldn’t give her the life Ethan could have. He also had to deal with constantly hanging out with Ethan and Ash knowing that Ethan was pining away for Jules after so many years.

The biggest secret in The Interestings is that Goodman is still alive and in contact with his family. Why do you think Ash never told Ethan? Do you think he would have reacted differently to finding out if Ash had been honest with him?

I think Ash genuinely believed Ethan would have turned Goodman in without hesitation. He believes in doing what’s right and the only time he ever wavered was when he lied to get out of his son’s diagnostic appointment. I don’t think he would have been as angry if Ash told him from the beginning. However, I don’t think his reaction would have been much less severe if she told him when Jules did. The point was she’d been holding a secret for years and didn’t trust him with the information.

What did you think of Ethan's giving financial help to Jules and Dennis? Was that an appropriate expression of friendship? How can friends navigate very different financial realities?

I think it was a very kind thing to do but I understand why Jules and Dennis didn’t want to accept it at first. I’m not sure it’s an appropriate expression of friendship because it takes away the equity in the relationship. From that point forward, there is always the potential for one person to feel like they owe a debt to the other—even if the giving friend doesn’t feel that way. I think navigating different financial realities can be really challenging when it comes to travelling together, going out to restaurants, etc. The effort just has to be to meet in the middle where possible. When its not, the richer friend may want to take care of things to the extent possible (i.e, rent a house for vacation and take care of everything but airfare so the friend can pay for something and not feel like a burden).

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