Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Triangles includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Triangles is the story of three women, all facing middle age. As one woman’s marriage unravels, another one’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s is reconfigured into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all three of them will soon learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Describe your experience of reading Triangles, a novel in verse. How was the reading experience unique, and how was it similar to reading a regular novel? Did it go more slowly or more quickly than you expected? Did it inspire you to try out poetry-writing yourself? Why or why not??
2. Near the beginning and at the very end of Triangles, Holly and Andrea have the same thought, "about / how, while parallel lines may not / intersect, parallel lives too often do." (pages 7 and 528) How do Holly, Andrea, and Marissa’s lives intersect? How many love triangles can you name within Triangles??
3. The novel rotates among three narrators: Holly, Andrea, and Marissa. Which narrator do you relate to the most? Whose point of view do you have trouble relating to, and why??
Holly believes "That love and sex can, in fact, remain / independent of one another." (p. 36) What would Marissa and Andrea say about Holly’s statement? Do love and sex go together for Andrea and Marissa, or can they have satisfying sex without love, and satisfying love without sex??
4. All the mothers in Triangles struggle with their teenaged children’s relationships: Marissa tries to accept Shane’s homosexuality and choice of an HIV-positive partner; Holly finds out that Mikayla is pregnant; and Andrea tries to help Harley through the disappointments of her first crush. How do these moms approach parenting and sex in their households? Which mom is the most permissive, and which is the most strict? What examples do Marissa, Holly, and Andrea set for their children? ?
5. Discuss how each character uses technology as way to guard or invade privacy. Why does Christian keep a secret cell phone? Why do you think Holly opts for an old-fashioned journal instead of a secure computer document for her erotica? Do you think technology makes our lives more or less private today? Explain your answer.?
6. Compare Holly’s search for her birth parents to Andrea’s discovery of her "murky paternity." How do Holly and Andrea each deal with the uncertainties of their origins? How does Holly react when she finally meets her birth mother? ?
7. Chart the stages of Marissa and Christian’s marriage. How do they interact at the beginning of the novel, during Shelby’s decline and Shane’s teenage rebellions? What shocking discoveries drive them apart, and what incidents bring them closer together? Does it seem that their marriage will last? Why or why not??
8. After Harley and Brianna fight over Chad, Harley’s crush, a poem called "A Friend" provides a definition: "A friend is never / so unclear about the definition / of friendship as to straddle its / boundaries." (p. 211) How does this definition of friendship apply to Harley and Brianna as well as to their mothers, Andrea and Holly? Who crosses the line in each of these friendships, and how do they manage to remain friends??
9. While accepting a foot massage in a hotel room after a male strip show, Holly thinks, "It comes to me that there are different / degrees of infidelity. And while an extramarital / foot rub isn’t exactly right, it really isn’t so wrong." (p. 250) What are some of the "degrees of infidelity" in Triangles? Do you agree with Holly that some "degrees" are more wrong than others, or are all types of infidelity equally wrong? Explain your answer.?
10. Discuss the brief affair between Andrea and Jace. How does Andrea justify sleeping with her best friend’s husband? Why does she eventually break off their romance? Were you surprised that Andrea keeps silent and stays friends with Holly? Why or why not??
11. After Shelby’s death, Marissa tells Shane, "Shelby is the essence of love. / And so maybe the reason for / her short time here is to show / us how to might love better." (p. 496) How does Shelby set an example of love for each member of the family: Marissa, Christian, and Shane? ?
12. There are plenty of unanswered questions at the end of Triangles: Holly’s marriage and writing career, Andrea’s romantic future, and Mikayla’s teenage pregnancy. How do you think these characters’ careers, friendships, and romances will turn out? Does each character get what he or she deserves? Why or why not?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Try your hand at free verse! Take one of the poems at the end of a section as a model—"Turn-ons" on page 151 and "Spilling a Secret" on page 391 are good examples—and write your own poem beginning with that title. Share your poem with your book club, and voilà, you’re a poet!?
2. Serve Holly’s favorite cocktail at your book club meeting—a mojito! Find an easy drink recipe here: http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink582.html. ??
3. While jogging on her fortieth birthday, Holly makes a "bucket list" of goals to accomplish: run a marathon, try out extreme activities, face her birth mother, and make herself available to new relationships. (p. 337) Create your own bucket list of goals to accomplish. Have each member share one item from their bucket list with the group. ?
4. Research Spinal Muscular atrophy (SMA), Shelby’s condition in Triangles. For some ways to get involved—from making a charitable donation to lobbying for federal funding for research—visit the SMA Foundation’s website: http://www.smafoundation.org/get-involved/get-involved-content/ways-to-get-involved.html. ?
5. In the poem "All It Takes," Andrea thinks about how her friends’ and family’s zodiac signs reflect their personalities. (p. 173) Find out what the stars say about you by looking up your sign here: http://zodiac-signs-astrology.com.
6. Get inspired by the Nevada setting of the novel and turn your book club night into a casino night. Set up an easy game of poker, blackjack, or Bingo. Whoever wins the first round gets to choose your next book club selection!