Truth in Advertising (Kenney) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. Truth in Advertising pokes fun at the advertising industry, yet often makes a case for it being an underappreciated art form. Do you think there is artistic value in advertising? Can you think of an example of an ad campaign or commercial that might be considered aesthetically important?

2 .Fin’s relationship with his father was volatile and complicated. Is it always necessary, or possible, to forgive those who have done us so much damage in the past? Is there ever an excuse for cutting ties with a parent?

3. At different points throughout the novel, Fin has imaginary interviews with Terry Gross, Barbara Walters, and Oprah. What function does this device serve? Do you think it’s effective?

4. Why do you think the author waits so long to reveal that Fin was present when his mother died? What does this revelation teach the reader about Fin? Do you think he was right to keep this secret to himself for so many years?

5. In today’s media-saturated culture, individuals are often encouraged to “brand” themselves using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks. How would you define the difference between a person’s “brand” and their personality? What is Fin’s brand?

6. Of all the Dolan children, why do you think Fin is the only one who agrees to scatter their father’s ashes? Is this act merely symbolic? Or do you really think it helps him resolve some of his anger toward his father?

7. Fin notes that both Phoebe and Pam are friends who “understand what you mean, not what you say” (p. 232) Why is this important to Fin?

8. Oftentimes tragedies bring families closer together. In the Dolans’ case, their father’s death initially just serves as a reminder of their troubled childhood and how far apart they’ve grown. What makes them incapable of finding solace in each other, and how do you think this has changed by the end of the novel?

9. Fin frequently complains about being dissatisfied with his job, yet he remains unable to leave. What aspects of the advertising industry does he find so compelling even as he struggles to justify staying in it? He talks about advertising being based on mythology and lies. What are some societal myths about happiness and success that Fin buys into and why do you think these are ultimately unable to satisfy him?

10. Phoebe and Fin play a game where they point out one beautiful thing they see each day. How does Fin’s relationship with Phoebe and the game they play affect the way he deals with his own anger and pain? Do you think there is beauty even in tragedy?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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