The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of The Girls from Corona del Mar, Rufi Thorpe’s magnificent debut novel about friendships made in youth, and how the intimacies and complexities of those relationships can reverberate throughout life in unexpected ways.
Deeply heartfelt and rich with emotional resonance, The Girls from Corona del Mar is an unflinchingly realistic portrayal of friendships made in childhood, and of how the bonds of these relationships flare and flail as life’s challenges present themselves.
Mia and Lorrie Ann have been best friends since childhood, their relationship built on the familiar foundations of youth: laughing at inexplicable inside jokes, gossiping about boys and teachers, and harboring each other’s secrets. Yet, despite these intimacies, they couldn’t be more different: as a teen, Mia is hardened to the world, forced to raise her brothers and herself as her alcoholic mother becomes absorbed in her own romantic endeavors, while kindhearted Lorrie Ann comes from a loving, stable home. But when tragedy strikes Lorrie Ann, her life is forever changed, and she goes down a dark path that Mia never could have anticipated. As their lives move in separate directions and geography separates them, their friendship waxes and wanes, yet Mia always holds a special place in her heart for her best friend. When Lorrie Ann shows up unexpectedly in Istanbul, where Mia is living at the time, the dynamics of their friendship are tested as never before, leading Mia to question whether Lorrie Ann is the same person she has always known.
With brilliantly drawn characters and prose that jumps off the page, The Girls of Corona del Mar is an incisive look at friendship, motherhood, and loyalty—a remarkable debut from a talented new voice on the literary scene.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The Girls from Corona del Mar opens with a scene in which Mia asks Lorrie Ann to break her toe. How does this scene echo throughout the novel? Can this scene, and other scenes in which feet and toes appear, be read symbolically?
2. How does Mia characterize herself in her youth? How does she characterize Lorrie Ann? Which aspects of their personalities remain the same over the course of the novel? What are some notable changes?
3. Discuss how Mia defines motherhood throughout the novel. How do Mia’s interactions with her own mother affect her understanding of what it means to be a mother? Why do you think Mia is so hesitant to become a mother?
4. Discuss the scene in which Mia hits her brother with a hanger. Did it change your perception of Mia?
5. What is the significance of the anecdote that opens the chapter “Dead Like Dead-Dead,” in which Mia’s dog gets hit by a car? Discuss the phone call that Mia makes to Lorrie Ann afterward. How does this incident change the dynamics of their relationship? Why do you think the author choose to juxtapose the death of Mia’s dog with the death of Jim?
6. Mia and Lorrie Ann’s friendship is rooted in the common experiences of youth, but their lives take completely different paths after high school. Why do you think Mia holds on to the friendship? Is it because of nostalgia? Familiarity? Loyalty? Discuss the moments in which Mia doubts the validity of their friendship. By the end of the novel, how has she come to view their relationship?
7. Lorrie Ann’s romantic relationships are sometimes judged harshly by Mia. Discuss Mia’s first meeting with Arman. What are her impressions of him? How do her assumptions about him change? By the end of the novel, does Mia see Arman in a different light?
8. Consider Mia’s upbringing in Corona del Mar and her surprise when she is admitted into Yale. What value does she place on education, and why? Why do you think Mia chose to study classics? How do her studies shape her worldview?
9. How does Mia describe her relationship with Franklin? Why do you think she is so hesitant about commitment in their relationship? How do her feelings about the topic shift after Lorrie Ann’s visit?
10. Mia says that her father “never felt like family.” How does the absence of her father affect her? Discuss the scene in which Mia, Franklin, and her father meet. After Franklin defuses the tense conversation between Mia and her father, how does Mia’s perception of her father change?
11. Discuss the significance of the tea set that Mia purchases at the beginning of the novel. What does her contentious relationship with Bensu symbolize? When Mia discovers the where the tea set has ended up at the end of the novel, how does she react?
12. How does Mia’s anxiety about financial stability manifest throughout the novel? Discuss how wealth and poverty are explored by the author. How does Mia’s relationship with Franklin change these concerns?
13. Mia states that “I feared the Inanna in myself.” How does the mythology of Innana factor in The Girls of Corona del Mar? How does Mia use the story of Innana to explore her feelings about motherhood? Parental relationships? Lorrie Ann’s behavior?
14. Discuss the emails that Mia sends to Lorrie Ann after Lorrie Ann leaves Istanbul. Why do you think she sent those notes?
15. Mia mentions that “the Corona del Mar in which Lorrie Ann and I grew up actually ceased to exist almost at the exact moment we left it.” What is the significance of this statement? Does she mean that the town physically changes or that her connection to the town has changed over time? Or both?
About this Author
RUFI THORPE received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. A native of Corona del Mar, California, she currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. The Girls from Corona del Mar is her first novel.
Amanda Boyden, Pretty Little Dirty;
Jennifer Close, Girls in White Dresses;
Ann Packer, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier;
Ann Patchett, Truth & Beauty;
J. Courtney Sullivan, Commencement;
Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer