Eat the Document

A Novel

Eat the Document

An ambitious and powerful story about idealism, passion, and sacrifice, Eat the Document shifts between the underground movement of the 1970s and the echoes and consequences of that movement in the 1990s.

A National Book Award finalist, Eat the Document is a riveting portrait of two eras and one of the most provocative and compelling novels of recent years.
  • Scribner | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743273008 | 
  • November 2006

Reading Group Guide

Group Reading Guide
Eat the Document
Dana Spiotta

If you want to change your life, first change your name.
In the heyday of the 1970s underground, Mary Whittaker and Bobby DeSoto were the quintessential political activists -- in love with each other and their cause. But when a radical protest against the Vietnam War ended in tragedy, they vowed to never see each other again and start anew by changing their names and identities.
Now a fugitive on-the-run, Mary keeps the truth, and the authorities, at bay by altering her image, dying her hair, and never staying too long in one place. Mary reinvents herself as Caroline Sherman, and then takes the name (and social security number) of a dead infant named Louise Barrot. It's now the 1990s, and "Louise" lives with her teenage son Jason in the suburbs of Seattle -- a son she hardly knows but who revels in the music of her day. Jason becomes suspect of his mother's strange ways, and with the power of technology, he puts together the pieces of her secret past.
Shifting between the protests in the 1970s and the consequences of those choices in the 1990s, Eat the Document is an unflinching examination of the polarities -- from rebellion and subculture to advertising and trends -- that can define a generation.

Questions for Discussion

  1. One of the prominent themes in Eat the Document is that of identity. For Mary Whit
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About the Author

Dana Spiotta
Photo Credit: Jessica Marx

Dana Spiotta

Dana Spiotta is the author of Lightning Field, a New York Times Notable Book, and Eat the Document, a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Syracuse, New York, with her husband and daughter.