Laura & Emma (Greathead) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. On pages 112 and 113, we get a glimpse of Laura’s dismissive attitude toward sex. How do you think that influences Emma’s burgeoning sexuality throughout the book?

2. Privilege and the awareness of it are a recurring theme in Laura & Emma. At several points, Laura tries to explain what privilege is to Emma (for example, page 100). Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve wanted to explain privilege to children? How does that situation change when they’re part of your family? Did your parents ever have a conversation like this with you?

3. Laura quietly questions her sexuality throughout the book. On page 111, the metaphor describing the mysterious, lurking fisherman taking off—"the wake of his boat unzipping the water like the back of a dress”"—seems to imply a level of desire on Laura’s part. How did you understand Laura’s need—or lack thereof—for intimacy throughout the novel?

4. On page 124, Laura realizes Dr. Brown is offering Emma something "that she hadn’t been offered as a child, and was hence unequipped to provide herself." What do you think Dr. Brown is offering, and does Laura ever discover how to give it to Emma?

5. In the episode Laura has with her brother Nicholas (pages 160–170), she appears jealous and lonely. However, Laura has led a very solitary life for the most part. Why is she suddenly so eager for her brother’s company at this juncture?

6. On pages 197 and 198, there is a brief flashback to one of Laura’s teachers appearing to sexually harass her. In the scene, Bibs is excited that Laura has been invited over to the older male teacher’s house, and "insisted she wear lipstick and carry a comb in her pocketbook." What does this say about Bibs as a mother? Why do you think she let Laura go into this situation? What effect do you think this encounter has on Laura’s impression of men and her feelings toward them? Finally, do you think views of sexual harassment have changed since the late eighties and early nineties?

7. After her death, Laura discovers that Bibs went to group therapy for her depression. On page 183, Laura is momentarily panicking that she has lost Emma, and thinks, "Without Emma there would be no point to anything." What does this say about Laura’s character? Why do you think the author included this?

8. Analyze the first paragraph on page 242 (beginning with "In first grade" and ending with "a shade lighter than what surrounded it"). This paragraph seems like an interruption in the narrative flow. Why do you think the author chose to put it there? How do you interpret it based on the passages before and after?

9. Laura is a very pensive character—constantly evaluating her surroundings and reflecting on them, even if she doesn’t often explore her own thoughts or emotions. On page 164, Emma has a longer reflective moment, similar to ones her mother has had throughout the book. In what ways do you think Emma is like Laura, and in what ways is she drastically different?

10. Woven among the scenes of Laura & Emma are hints of Laura’s possible homosexuality or bisexuality. However, it is never resolved or identified. Why do you think the author chose to do this?

11. The last significant relationship Laura has in the book is with her neighbor, Martin. Why do you think she connects with him (and he to her)?

12. What do you make of the ending? What do you think will happen to Laura? Why did the author choose to end on this note?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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