Meet the Harcourts of Chevy Chase, Maryland. A respectable middle-class, middle-age, mixed-race couple, Harold and Forsythia have four eminently marriageable daughters—or so their mother believes. Forsythia named her girls after Windsor royals in the hopes that one day each would find her true prince. But princes are far from the mind of their second-born daughter, Elizabeth (AKA Bliss), who, in the aftermath of a messy divorce, has moved back home and thrown herself into earning her PhD. All that changes when a Bachelorette-style reality television show called The Virgin takes Bliss’s younger sister Diana as its star. Though she fights it at first, Bliss can’t help but be drawn into the romantic drama that ensues, forcing her to reconsider everything she thought she knew about love, her family, and herself. Fresh and engaging, Imperfect Bliss is a wickedly funny take on the ways that courtship and love have changed—even as they’ve stayed the same.
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Read an Excerpt
Bliss Harcourt stared down at her daughter who stood with cherubically plump arms tightly crossed to prevent her mother from removing her powder-blue ersatz satin princess dress. How do you tell a four-year-old you can have the right outfit and the right attitude but it doesn’t mean your prince will come? And even if he does show up, he might just ride away, permanently, mused Bliss as Bella scowled at her through baby bifocals worn beneath a spangled plastic tiara. “Bella, please take off the costume,” Bliss pleaded, not wanting to use bodily force, but aware that her stores of...see more
Closely trailed by Bella, Bliss entered the wainscoted dining room to find her mother at the breakfast table in one of her trademark poses of soap-operatic grief. She leaned back in her reproduction Hepplewhite chair, one hand poised on a bosom so ample it strained the buttons of a peach chiffon peignoir two sizes too small. In spite of her agony, her Eartha Kitt bouffant wig (1980s vintage) was perfectly pinned in place and her “Very Vixen” lipstick flawlessly applied.
“Another opportunity lost,” Forsythia wailed as she handed the receiver to her youngest daughter,...see more
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Reading Group Guide
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Take a closer look at the epigraphs for Imperfect Bliss. How does each relate to the novel? Do you think they are representing the point of view of a specific character?
2. On the surface, Harold and Forsythia are an unlikely couple. What do you think draws them together? Are there other unlikely couples in Imperfect Bliss that seem to work?
3. Do you think Imperfect Bliss takes a cynical or an optimistic take on love? What about marriage? Use examples from the novel during your discussion.
4. Bliss feels that history holds the keys to the present and the future. To what extent is this belief illustrated in the book? Do you agree with Bliss?
5. Discuss the ways that the novel addresses race. Would you say it is central to the plot? What about to the identities of the Harcourt daughters?
6. How do Bliss’s opinions of her mother and father evolve as the novel progresses?
7. On p. 246, Victoria compares being gay to being black. Do you agree with this comparison? Why doesn’t this seem see more