We’ve been chomping at the bit to discuss Mary Gaitskill’s novel The Mare in our inaugural book club discussion and have put together questions and resources to deepen our understanding of the novel as well as our understanding of women who have made child-related choices different than our own. Take a look, and please respond to the questions in the comments or on our FaceBook page.
1.Why do you think having Velvet in her life provokes Ginger to start “talking to women for the first time”?
2.Paul’s ex-wife tells Ginger that taking in a Fresh Air Fund kid is “an easy way to play at being a parent” and this stings. This seems like an intentional slight and a judgment of Ginger’s childlessness. Have you ever received, perpetrated, or overheard such a mommy micro-aggression?
3.Ginger feels some shame for her eagerness to nurture Velvet. Why would a woman feel shame for wanting to nurture someone?
4.How does horse trainer Pat’s relationship with Velvet complicate and/or add perspective to Ginger’s relationship with Velvet?
5.How do you feel about Ginger’s decision to disregard Silvia’s directive not to let Velvet ride horses?
6.How is this decision complicated by our nation’s history of white people deciding what’s better for children of color (such as taking Native American kids from their homes and putting them in schools to strip them of their “savage” ways)?
7.Paul has a sort of clichéd midlife-crisis affair with a younger woman. Is taking in Velvet portrayed as a childless woman’s version of a midlife crisis?
8. Near the end of the novel, Ginger says: “I can’t even be her pretend mother. I give in. I agree. I’m over. It is what it is. But I can still get her on that fucking horse. I can help her win.” What do you make of these statements in the context of the entire novel?
9.Gaitskill is known for taking on taboo subjects such as prostitution and addiction. What do you think is taboo about The Mare?
NY Times Sunday Magazine article “Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen” by Parul Sehgal
Slate book review by Elliot Holt
NPR’s Fresh Air review by Maureen Corrigan
The Drunken Odyssey podcast Episode 193: interview with Mary Gaitskill, Gaitskill reading, and discussion with MotherShould? co-editor Beverly Army Williams
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