In 1975, Paul and Roz Mellow write a bestselling Joy of Sex-type book that mortifies their four school-aged children and ultimately changes the shape of the family forever. Thirty years later, as the now dispersed family members argue over whether to reissue the book, we follow the complicated lives of each of the grown children and their conflicts in love, work, marriage, parenting, and, of course, sex -- all shadowed by the indelible specter of their highly sexualized parents. Insightful, panoramic, and compulsively readable, The Position is an American original.
Read an Excerpt
The book was placed on a high shelf in the den, as though it were the only copy in the world and if the children didn't find it they would be forever unaware of the sexual lives of their parents, forever ignorant of the press of hot skin, the overlapping voices, the stir and scrape of the brass headboard as it lightly battered the plaster, creating twin finial-shaped depressions over the years in the wall of the bedroom in which the parents slept, or didn't sleep, depending on the night.
The book sat among a collection of unrelated and mostly ignored volumes: Watership Down, Diet for a Small Planet, Building a Deck... see more
Reading Group Guide
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Why did Paul and Roz Mellow keep a copy of Pleasuring where they knew the children could, and most likely would, find it? Did they fully understand the consequences of how the book might affect their children, especially 6-year-old Claudia and 8-year-old Dashiell?
2. Roz "had once read a line in a book that she'd never forgotten: Women have sex so they can talk, and men talk so they can have sex" (240). Using examples from the story, discuss the different ways in which men and women view sex, relationships, and the ways in which the two intersect.
3. How does looking at the book -- and seeing their parents in this way -- impact each of the Mellow children? What do their reactions reveal about their individual personalities? When they're re-introduced 28 years later in Chapter 2, is it apparent how the book has affected them even in adulthood?
4. How did growing up on the grounds of a psychiatric institution affect Roz, both physically and emotionally, including the incident with Warren Keyes when she was nine years old?
5. How did Paul and Roz's relationship develop from analyst and patient to lovers? What did they see in one another? What did each one get from the relationship?
6. Why do you suppose the author chose to have Thea starring in a play about Sigmund Freud, the most famous of psychoanalysts, and his patient Dora?
7. Claudia and Michael see more