Trust Exercise (Choi) - 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 TRUST EXERCISE … then take off on your own:

1. Any one of these talking points could relate to your own life. As you consider each question with regards to Susan Choi's novel, also consider it in terms of your own experiences and what you recall of your adolescent years. Ask yourself how reliable your own memory is, and how others might remember those same events.

2. Start your discussion off with the central couple, Sarah and David. Talk about each as a character and the degree to which Choi enables us to get inside them, to know them. Also, talk about their love for one another. What is it that draws the couple together? Does their attachment feel true; is it deeply felt as, say, a more mature adult's?

3. Talk about Mr. Kingsley. In what ways does he overstep bounds? How does he use his students' own confusion and anxiety to bolster his lessons? Have you ever known teachers/professors like Kingsley?

4. Do the students have any concept of how transgressive, even dangerous, Kingsley's lessons are? How do they view these intimate dynamics?

5. Choi writes of "the excruciating in-betweenness of no longer being children, yet lacking those powers enjoyed by adults." How does her novel depict that line between adolescence and adulthood? In what ways is the line blurred and confusing, thrilling and dangerous?

6. What is the significance of the novel's title, Trust Exercise? Consider that each section of the novel uses the phrase as its title, focusing on a different set of betrayals. Is Choi's novel itself a "trust exercise"? Are all novels? (Now we're in the realm of meta fiction.)

7. At what point in the novel do you first begin to realize that perhaps you've misunderstood what you originally thought was happening?

8. Fast forward 15 years, to the second half of the novel. How have characters and their lives been altered?

9. Follow-up to Question 8: High school years, especially, can be transforming as well deforming, with the scars of betrayals and hurts carried forward, well into adulthood. What are the scars that Choi's characters bear (or perhaps bare)?

10. Related to Question 5: At one point, David talks with Sarah's old friend, recalling students who, they believe, slept with the director. David insists, "We knew what we were doing. Remember what we were like?" "We were children," Sarah's friend points out." But David retorts, "We were never children." What does he mean? How aware are teens to the issues of abuse? Should they know better—are they capable of knowing better?

11. How does the play in the second half reveal what actually happened in the first half?

12. Is Sarah's book betrayal, revenge, or is it art?

13. Discuss the ways in which Trust Exercise takes aim at a number of cultural issues, including the cult of the "Great Man" and the "Elite Brotherhood of the Arts." In what other ways is the book satirical?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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