Discussion Questions

1. In the author’s note, we learn that bubbe meise means a “grandmother’s tale” or an “old wives’ tale.” How does this inform your understanding of the first section of the novel?

2. Were Rachel’s attempts to end the affair helpful? If you were Aviva’s mother, what would you have done?

3. The book is divided into five sections: Rachel, Jane, Ruby, Embeth, and Aviva. Which character could you relate to the most, and why? In what ways are “Jane” and “Aviva” separate characters?

4. When Rachel tells Embeth about the affair, why do you think Embeth decides not to do anything about it?

5. When two people have a workplace romance, how is it affected by a power imbalance in their positions?

6. What did you make of Franny’s relationship to Jane? Why is Franny so quick to bond with her?

7. What did you make of Ruby’s decision to tell the newspaper who Aviva Grossman is?

8. A parrot appears in Embeth’s section of the novel, and seems to be visible only to her. What do you think El Mete represents?

9. Why didn’t Embeth ever run for office? Compare Embeth and Aviva.

10. Why do you think Embeth protects her husband the congressman from meeting Ruby?

11. Why do you think the author decides to take us back to the beginning of Aviva’s internship in the final section of the book? How does your knowledge of Aviva’s choices affect your empathy for her?

12. Women are 51% of the population, and yet they occupy fewer than 20% of the seats in the House and Senate. Why do you think that is? Is it a matter of desire, or is it borne out of something larger in our society?

13. At the end of the novel, Aviva is asked how she survived the scandal, and she says, “I refused to be shamed” (294). What is the difference between feeling shame and being shamed?

14. Imagine Aviva’s story if it were thirty years-ago, a time before the internet was commonly used. How would Aviva’s story be different if there wasn’t Google?

15. Why do you think Jane decides to run for office even though it means exposing her past and revealing her identity? Do you think Jane wins the election?