The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Trouble
, Kate Christensen’s bewitching tale of lust, loyalty, and the limits of friendship.
Josie is a Manhattan psychotherapist living a comfortable life with her husband and daughter—until, while suddenly flirting with a man at a party, she is struck with the sudden realization that she must leave her passionless marriage. A thrillingly sordid encounter with a stranger she meets at a bar immediately follows. At the same time, her college friend Raquel, a Los Angeles rock star, is being pilloried in the press for sleeping with a much younger man who happens to have a pregnant girlfriend. This proves to be red meat to the gossip hounds of the Internet. The two friends escape to Mexico City for a Christmas holiday of retreat and rediscovery of their essential selves. Sex has gotten these two bright, complicated women into interesting trouble, and the story of their struggles to get out of that trouble is totally gripping at every turn.
A tragicomedy of marriage and friendship, Trouble
is a funny, piercing, and moving examination of the battle between the need for connection and the quest for freedom that every modern woman must fight.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Do you empathize or disagree with Josie’s decision to leave Anthony and her reasons for doing so? Did you find Josie to be a sympathetic character at the beginning of the novel? In the end? Why or why not?
2. In Chapter Two, we see Josie in four psychotherapy sessions with her clients. Why do you think the author included these scenes in the novel? Do Josie’s training and experience as a therapist enable her to have increased insight into the people around her?
3. Mexico City serves as a needed escape valve for both Josie and Raquel. Why do you think the author chose this city for the setting of the converging and diverging paths of these two friends? What role does Mexico itself play in the unfolding story?
4. There are several instances and places during the novel in which a ritualized encounter takes place, among them the paparazzi descending on Raquel, a bullfight, and references to the human-sacrifice rituals of the Aztecs. Are there other instances of such encounters? What do you think the author is suggesting about the apparent ongoing human need for them?
5. On page 307, going home from Raquel’s mother’s house in a taxi with Wendy, Josie reflects about the kind of friend she has been to Raquel: “Maybe she and I had failed each other by allowing each other the freedom to be ourselves, and maybe that was the inevitable consequence of true friendship.” What do you think she means by this? Do you agree?
About this Author
Kate Christensen is the author of the novels In the Drink
, Jeremy Thrane
, The Epicure’s Lament, The Great Man
, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award.
She lives in Brooklyn.
Amanda Boyden, Pretty Little Dirty
; Lauren Fox, Sill Life With Husband
; Mary Gaitskill, Don’t Cry
; Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher
; D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
; Allison Lurie, Foreign Affairs;
Lorrie Moore, Self-Help
; J. Courtney Sullivan, Commencement