If you're reading Carnegie Hill in a book club—or if you'd like to engage with the work on a deeper level, consider these discussion prompts. Also, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like me to join your book club via Skype or FaceTime (or in person, if I'm able).
1. I wrote Carnegie Hill partly as an exercise in empathy. I believe that very few people are actually evil, and if you understand their circumstances, everyone can be related to. As the American political landscape has become more divided, this viewpoint hasbecome more important to me. Are there characters you weren't expecting to empathize with but do? What discoveries softened these characters, and why? Are there characters who could not be redeemed?
2. Just about everyone in the book is keeping a secret. Which secrets seem forgivable? Which of these secrets would you also have kept?
3. Each of these characters is wrestling with or clinging to their past. How does the past drive these characters, and who is able to let go of it?
4. Francis's favorite author is Franz Kafka. What does "Kafkaesque" mean to Francis, and how does it apply to the way the Chelmsford Arms functions? Is Francis right?
5. One of my goals in writing Pepper was to create a character who was becoming conscious of her privilege. To what extent does she grow in this respect, and do you feel that she goes far enough?
6. The book is very much about the power and limitations of privilege, and the ways in which people with money suffer. In what situations does money (and social standing, and whiteness) help a character, and in what situations is it useless or harmful?
7. The original title of Carnegie Hill was Referred Pain, a medical phenomenon in which a person feels pain far from an internal wound, because the body cannot feel pain in its deepest recesses. How do these characters "refer" their emotional wounds?
Feel free to comment on any of these questions here, or add your own question!