Thank you for Visiting

This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

The Life Room - discussion starts today!


Originally posted in the Big Tent.... view comments for full conversation.

Today we start discussing ‘The Life Room’. I encourage everyone to visit the MMBC Blog to read the Q&A with Jill Bialosky. Her answers may spark a discussion topic for you, or maybe another question to ask everyone. This dialog is meant to be a discussion between friends – Let’s keep the discussion causal and hopefully we learning something new about each other along the way.

A few of the questions below were sent to me from other readers, thank you for your questions! Feel free to answer any all of the questions below:

1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

2. Did you have a favorite character (include why you liked the character)?

3. Did you have a favorite part in the book?

4. The author mentions that she grew to like Eleanor as she wrote her. How did you feel about Eleanor as a person?

5. Steven and Eleanor keep getting together then splitting up. Is this because Steven is running away from Eleanor or is she actually pushing him away?

6. Eleanor keeps picking lovers that are very much like her father. Why, then, did she choose to marry Michael, someone who is so different?

7. Did you believe that Eleanor was really concerned with her husband and children as she traveled abroad? How about when she returned home?

16 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read everyone's thoughts about the book and answers to the questions. I will chime in throughout the discussion but thought I would share my initial answers (which might change as our dialog continues).

    1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it? Eleanor is haunted with memories, some are so intense that they start to impact her life. I'm happy I read the book, it's thought provoking.

    2. Did you have a favorite character (include why you liked the character)? I didn't have a favorite character. I would have liked to see Eleanor's husband play a more active role in the book. He came across weak to me and I really wanted him to take a stand, be stronger. Having him in the book more may have frustrated me though… he didn't fight for his kids/family the way I wanted him to, or put his foot down with Eleanor when she returned from London half crazed.

    3. Did you have a favorite part in the book? I liked the idea that an event can change your life. Going to the conference brought intense feelings to the surface that had been unresolved/hidden for years. I liked the fourth section the best, it read easy and true for me. Having the background and Eleanor's travel to the conference behind me, I enjoyed watching her struggle with decisions and not knowing what to do. I remember actually wanting to know how the book was going to end (does she stay with her husband or leave him?)

    4. The author mentions that she grew to like Eleanor as she wrote her. How did you feel about Eleanor as a person? Eleanor is haunted with memories, some are so intense that they start to impact her life. I didn't understand parts of Eleanor, her fascination with Steven… I didn't get him. We discussed young love with Driving Sideways… I have to say if I met Steven as a grown up I would run the other way (and fast!). Eleanor is a messy, lonely character -- I thought she might end in a happier place but I don't know what's in store for her as the book ends. I'm not sure I could be friends with Eleanor.

    5. Steven and Eleanor keep getting together then splitting up. Is this because Steven is running away from Eleanor or is she actually pushing him away? I think they are both looking to fill a void in their life. This is a hard question for me to answer… I didn't like or understand Steven yet Eleanor was intrigued by him. The author wrote Steven well, I thought I knew who he was, I just didn't like him.

    6. Eleanor keeps picking lovers that are very much like her father. Why, then, did she choose to marry Michael, someone who is so different? I'm assuming she married him thinking it was the right thing to do, Michael was safe.

    7. Did you believe that Eleanor was really concerned with her husband and children as she traveled abroad? How about when she returned home? In the beginning of the book I thought Eleanor's family was her first priority. As I read the book, I noticed how self absorbed she was and realized that she returns home with a lot of emotions

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have to say, I really tried to like this book. I was pretty interested throughout part one. In part 2, I was annoyed with Eleanor when she was in Paris, talking about other men looking at her, not thinking about her husband and children at home. I found her to be selfish and immature.

    I quickly got bored of the storyline, and tried to get through it, but I just had to give up. I'm hoping I will like the next book better!

    Holly

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1) I have to say I almost put this down in the first chapter and did not pass it on to any friends.

    4/7) I didn't like Eleanor in the beginning or end. Granted she was exploring the passion of her relationships, but I couldn't believe that could happen without thoughts of her home life. Maybe I just haven't been in that place, but as a mom it seems unbelievable to escape reality like that.

    I think the author wanted to create conflicting emotions, but I wasn't invested enough in the character. Sorry I don't have much to discuss on this book!

    Gretta

    ReplyDelete
  4. 1. Overall, I thought the book was beautifully written and some of the passages were so insightful. I felt like, sometimes, Bialosky was beating the reader over the head pointing out the two different colors of eyes to represent the different sides of Eleanor's personality. Likewise, she felt it necessary to explain what the breaking of the pitcher means. I might have liked the book better if I could have understood Eleanor's attraction to Steven better.

    2. I can't say I really liked any of the characters, which is not to say that I didn't find them interesting and real.

    3. I didn't really have a favorite part.

    4. I understood, I think, why Eleanor was conflicted and why she chose the men that she chose but I never grew to "like" her. Throughout the book, I felt like she let things happen without consciously making any decisions. I really didn't like, and didn't find it altogher believable, that she could so easily give up a family that the beginning of the book made clear that she was deeply attached to.

    5. Eleanor was so ambivalent about her relationship with Steven. She never seemed to give him clear signals about what she was looking for and where she wanted the relationship to go. She gave Steven every opportunity to push her away and he was more than willing to take it. Steven had been so deeply affected by his parent's divorce and mother's alcoholism; he made of lifetime of destroying everything he came to care about. He had to push Eleanor away no matter how he felt for fear of destroying her but I don't think he was capable by the end of having a real relationship.

    6. I think Eleanor picked Michael because he was the opposite of her father and of all the men she had previously chosen (who all were so much like her dad). In a way he saved her from the life she had been living, just as he saved her in Central Park. I thought that was symbolic of the way in which Michael could save her from her own actions.

    7. I was surprised by how quickly Eleanor seemed to separate herself from her family when she got to Paris. I really found that difficult to buy into. I'm sure that it would be possible for soemone to get led astray when they are away from their family but Eleanor seemed to forget about them immediately. She became so wrapped up in herself. She says at one point that she married Michael because he allowed her "to be whoever I want to be" but then she acted as if she had been allowed to do that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I may be the differing voice, but I loved Eleanor, because I could relate to her struggles - and I think it's important to acknowledge the conflicting emotions women experience juggling all the roles we play in our lives. I realize some people may think she was selfish or self absorbed but I think those are traits we all have at some point in our lives to some degree. I even think being "selfish" is a good thing at times, because it gives you permission to take care of yourself, which you can role model for your kids. Maybe it's because I'm a psychologist, but I think sometimes people try to not think or feel strong emotions, and I am not sure that's a good thing. I saw Eleanor as conflicted, making good and not so good choices, and also at times, not knowing what the "right" thing to do was. I almost never get stopped by phrases in books, but I did in this book, and one of the most profound, I think is, We make choices at a particular instance, but why should we expect those choices to withstand the passing of time?" I also likes when she yells at her boys since she's upset over the subway accident, and after her boys say "it's okay, mom" she says, "No, it's not" then apologizes for yelling, I found that very real. I do think this book was slow reading at times, but I am glad I plowed through it

    Joan

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, and I think Steven and Eleanor are pushing each other away as they are also being drawn together. It's like an approach avoidance conflict - they both want more and do not want more at the same time. They both have deep wounds inside of them that they fill or try to in different ways - Steven thru firefighting, physical work, writing, and yes, firesetting, Elanor thru trying to be the "perfect" mother and wife, and her work. To me, they sublimated their desires and pain in different ways, some adaptive, some not...

    Joan

    ReplyDelete
  7. Joan, I'm not a psychologist so you may be right. I know that all of us have periods of selfishness and conflict. It was just for me that Eleanor's seemed to last a really long time! It struck me as really self-indulgent to allow her conflict to wreck havoc in a marriage she had made a commitment to as well as to severely affect her sons. I'm sure I've done things that wouldn't have won me "Mommy of the Year" but never for months on end which is what Eleanor allowed to happen. And she knew she was doing it but chose not to discuss it with Michael. I'm not saying she needed to tell him "Hey I have kind of a thing for another guy and I'm thinking of having an affair." She could have said, "Look I'm trying to work through some issues right now and I'm sorry that this is causing you pain but I'm doing the best I can."

    ReplyDelete
  8. I could relate to some the conflict Eleanor had with her husband and Steven, but something about her,it seemed too easy for let her real life go and to let Steven disrupt her life. My feeling about Steven is that he could never physically resolve his feelings for Eleanor, so he burned stuff instead. He has some serious issues, which is partly why Eleanor is so attracted. None of her old relationships were with the most stable people, including her father. I'm thinking the premise of the book was interesting, it just didn't live up to what I was expecting

    Patricia

    ReplyDelete
  9. 1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

    I started out really enjoying the book and really wanting to enjoy the book----a working mom, married, dealing with the struggles of life, etc. Part 2 went a little downhill for me and then picked up again, but never to the extent I expected. For me, it was just OK. I found myself annoyed and irritated by her indecisiveness.

    4. The author mentions that she grew to like Eleanor as she wrote her. How did you feel about Eleanor as a person?

    I liked Eleanor to an extent. To me, she reminded me of a dear friend who repeatedly makes the same relationship decisions and never deals with the reason why they don't work. I find myself asking the same questions and hearing the same answers over and over. Never seems to move forward.

    5. Steven and Eleanor keep getting together then splitting up. Is this because Steven is running away from Eleanor or is she actually pushing him away?

    I felt like Steven was running, on purpose. All a part of his game with her. He seems to gain something (control, self-esteem, etc) from knowing he had a hold on her. Eleanor always "jumping" or "wanting" to hear from him or thinking about him made me think she was weak as a character. I wanted her to either step up and "do it"/be with him, or let it go and move on, back to her own life instead of giving him so much control of her life.

    6. Eleanor keeps picking lovers that are very much like her father. Why, then, did she choose to marry Michael, someone who is so different?

    I think deep down she knew she needed something stable, something different in order to ground her. Maybe that is not what she wanted and the passion she wanted, but instead knew that was what she needed so she made that compromise.

    7. Did you believe that Eleanor was really concerned with her husband and children as she traveled abroad? How about when she returned home?

    Yes and no. I think as a mother you can never really not be concerned. But they weren't a part of her personal struggle so they didn't need to really be figured into the equation. Michael. . I don't think she was really concerned about him at either time, home or abroad. Her attempts with him to improve things felt like half-attempts. He was no help either, felt like he was just existing.

    Sharon

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm one of the few who loved this book. I loved how thought-provoking it was. I also love the poetic way in which it was written. I really enjoyed how Eleanor would flashback to her younger years - and I really identified with her experience in Paris. When I travel alone, I'm always keener to the world and my feelings to the point of writing in a journal. I loved that she was drawn to the vase and finally ended up getting it, because I've had that experience being drawn to something, not getting it, but in a way obsessing over it and knowing I have to have it.

    I was in a difficult moment in my marriage when reading this, and the thought of an affair crossed my mind. Reading Eleanor REALLY exposed how difficult that can be, and in a way made me realize how I had unfairly put my own expectations on my husband and how your kids can get sidestepped when you're not "present" (emotionally) with your family.

    My favorite character - the artist - I can't remember his name, but I appreciate his passion and honesty.

    I grew to hate the interaction between Eleanor and Stephen, because I hated the back and forth and I just wanted a decision to be made - either do it or don't. I thought Stephen was a horrible person for how he toyed with her emotions. I was really satisfied at the end though...great read.

    Samantha

    ReplyDelete
  11. Like so many others, I struggled with this book. I was really hoping Eleanor would step up and make good, strong decisions about her life but she didn't. It seemed like all the characters were floating through life while trying to sound thoughtful and pragmatic. I thought the dialogue seemed forced and not genuine. I almost put the book down twice but kept reading thinking Eleanor would come around.

    I could understand the conflicting emotions Eleanor deals with to an extent. Yes, we all feel torn in our lives but at some point you have to make a decision to move one way or another and I never saw Eleanor get to that point. I got the feeling she wasn't even really committed to sleeping with Stephen. I finished the book feeling like she would spend the rest of her life just floating through and that frustrated me.

    Kim

    ReplyDelete
  12. 1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it? I agree with a few others. I thought the book started out strong, but as it went on, I just wanted it to end! I did stick it out, though, to see the end result.

    2. Did you have a favorite character (include why you liked the character)? I liked Adam, the painter. He seemed to be himself without apology. Strong, passionate - I loved that in the end when Eleanor saw him again, he was with a young woman.

    3. Did you have a favorite part in the book? I enjoyed Eleanor's time in Paris. She obviously experienced that trip as a catylst to examine what she really wanted out of life. Perhaps she needed to physically be away from her family to allow herself to consider what else she wanted from life. She felt safe in Paris.

    4. The author mentions that she grew to like Eleanor as she wrote her. How did you feel about Eleanor as a person? I thought she was lost. She was clearly wounded by unresolved abandonment stuff from childhood. And then repeatedly experienced abandonment by William, Adam, and Steven. I felt sad for her.

    5. Steven and Eleanor keep getting together then splitting up. Is this because Steven is running away from Eleanor or is she actually pushing him away? I think it was probably a little of both. There was something obviously not right about Steven. He was sort of like a car accident for her - can't look at it, can't look away. I think she thought by establishing a relationship with her, her path would become more clear to her. But he just wasn't in any position to help her sort out anything.

    6. Eleanor keeps picking lovers that are very much like her father. Why, then, did she choose to marry Michael, someone who is so different? Michael represented what Eleanor thought she always wanted, which was safety. He proved throughout the story that he was safe by quietly carrying on their lives as Eleanor tried to decide what she wants to do. He loved her.

    7. Did you believe that Eleanor was really concerned with her husband and children as she traveled abroad? How about when she returned home? I think Eleanor was focused on herself during the trip, not unlike anyone traveling for business is focused. She was doing her job. And she enjoyed her job as well. The presentation of her paper was a major accomplishment. I don't think she purposely set out not to think of her family. I think she was focused on work and then got caught up in the whole experience. I think once she got home she wanted to go back to her "regular" life, but found she couldn't until she resolved what she was fighting within herself. I believe she really did love her kids and Michael, though.

    One more note - There were so many references to Anna Karenina, which is a book I have not read. I felt like maybe if I had read it, I would have had more insight into Eleanor's story.

    Jennifer

    ReplyDelete
  13. I had a very hard time getting into this book because I didn't like Eleanor from the get go - I hated the way she felt she didn't deserve to go away for her work. And was surprised when her husband had the same reaction and him being a doctor. They go to conventions often. That said, I eventually began to understand her and could see how she got to that point.

    But what drove me nuts was that Steven was just not worth the angst to me. How could she go on in that dreamy state for months about him and not care about what it was doing to her kids at least?

    And like the previous post I never finished Anna Karenina and kept wondering if that mattered. Did it anyone? LOL.

    Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  14. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I really struggled with Eleanor's attraction to Stephen. I'm relatively happy in my marriage, but maybe I've lowered my expectations about what is possible. Michael seemed like a decent guy who cared about her and their children. Stephen was so troubled and his obsession with fire frightened me.

    Eleanor's choice of lovers was interesting to me. I had a difficult if non-existent relationship with my own father, and made many poor relationship choices in my younger years. I am happy to say that I married a man very different from my father. I think I finally realized that I deserved to be treated well and wouldn't be able to fix my relationship with my father through these other men. I am happy that Eleanor wound up not cheating on Michael.

    S

    ReplyDelete
  15. I agree with many of of the others and had a hard time liking Eleanor after the first few chapters. I did not really enjoy the book because of my dislike for her. She was written as very unaware of her surroundings and her impact to others.

    Regarding the evolution of her relationship with Stephen, I kept wondering why she was so attracted to him? He didn't seem to have any redeeming qualities other than being attracted to her. I do wonder if Eleanor had met Stephen at a different stage in her life (post college and post William) if there would have been any connection between the two of them. I wonder if maybe she kept deliberating over Stephen because he was a part of her childhood and they both had some unresolved emotions over parents leaving them in their childhood. However, if that was the case, why did she temporarily leave (in the emotional sense) her own children?

    I also wondered if I would have gotten more from reading Anna Karenina, although after this book I have less desire to do so.

    jflynn

    ReplyDelete
  16. Started out OK but I soon became bored but kept reading....and then was happy it was over. Book ended but I didn't really care...nothing was resolved and I asked myself why I read the whole book in the first place.

    Actually, was disappointed, expected more.

    ReplyDelete