Those Who Knew (Novey) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for THOSE WHO KNEW … and then take off on your own:

1. How would you describe Lena's character? Why, for instance, does she go to such lengths to cover up her family's wealth? Why is she hiding it …or hiding from it? How did Victor use her privileged class position to manipulate her?

2. Why does Lena believe it is her responsibility to speak out about her suspicions surrounding Victor's role in Maria's death? Is it her responsibility? Consider Lena's own experience with Victor's rage and her years of silence.

3. When an unfamiliar black sweater and bra keep turning up among her belongings, Lena comes to believe she is receiving signals from an afterlife—which means that she is ordained to avenge Maria. How do you view these and other strange occurrences—are they spiritual visitations, her imagination, or symptoms of trauma or guilt?

4. Talk about the reasons that Olga cautions Lena against standing up to the "wrath of a sociopath." If you were in Olga's position—and given her own tragic history—do you find her warning understandable? What would you advise Lena?

5. Victor? Talk about his character—and how, for example, he represents "politics as usual." (Pigs, anyone?)

6. The novel's big question is this: to what degree is remaining silent in the face of sexual violence a matter of complicity and a moral failing?

7. Power is also a major subject in Those Who Knew. Consider the ways in which various characters wield power over others—sexual, political, or socio/economic. For instance, Victor can turn his sexuality against Cristina, but she can leverage her family's political connections against him. Who else leverages power against others?

8. Talk about previous U.S. involvement in the country's history and how American tourists show no interest in learning of America's role in that dark past.

9. Consider Freddy's play and the way it implicates his brother Victor without publicly defaming him. Does the play-within-a-novel device work as a plot device?

10. Follow-up to Question 9: Why might the author have divided the novel into three acts, as if it were a stage play?

11. Novey also uses extraneous media—news bulletins, sales entries, and commentary from Freddy's play. What do these snippets add to the reading experience?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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