Kennedy Debutante (Maher) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. In these days of Facebook and FaceTime, it is hard to imagine a love like Kick and Billy’s, which endures four years of their being separated by an ocean and a war, with infrequent letters and telegrams their only means of communication. Why do you think their love survives that distance of time and space?

2. Kick often struggles with the relationship between her internal desires and her external image. Where do the internal and external meet for her? Where are they most different? How does Billy deal with the same struggle?

3. Family, religion, and class are powerful forces in Kick’s life. How does she use them to her advantage? In what cases do they undermine her desire for an independent life?

4. Kick makes a number of observations about the differences between her own life and upbringing, and the expectations of her new milieu, English society. How does she use these differences to her advantage? Which ones does she try to minimize?

5. Have you ever been thrown into a new social scene and felt that you had to perform? How did it make you feel? What did you do?

6. Kick has to make a painful decision between her family and her love. Do you think you would make the same choice?

7. In what ways are Kick’s years in England before the war like a "beautiful dream," as she described them in the letter she wrote to her father in 1939? Does the dream continue when she returns during the war?

8. Jack, Joe Jr., and Billy all fight valiantly in World War II, but how are their attitudes toward the war different from one another’s? What do they have in common? What seems to be each man’s primary objective?

9. Kick and her English friends tend to "Keep Calm and Carry On"—or maybe "Party On" is a better description. Why do you think that is possible for them? Do you think the modern sensibility about war would produce the same result today?

10. Kick often envies her older brothers for their independence and freedoms. In what ways have young women today transcended those gender roles? In what ways are they still present?

11. Many women have to reconcile personal desires with the constraints of family and society. What do you think of Kick’s strategy? Do you think she would take the same approach today?

12. How does the Kennedy family as portrayed in the book fit with your own picture of the family? What surprises you?

13. The Kennedy women invest a great deal of time, effort, and money on fashion. What role does fashion play for them?

14. Jack tells John White, "There is Saturday night, and there is Sunday morning. Never the twain shall meet." Do you think Kick agrees?

15. How does the portrayal of Jack as a young man fit or not fit with your image of him as JFK, the man who—as Debo’s mother correctly predicted—became president of the United States?

16. "Some lives are short," Kick writes to Father O’Flaherty from Washington, DC, "and I increasingly feel that it’s essential to live the life it’s in one’s soul to live." In addition to the premature death of Kick’s friend George Mead, what do you think prompts this revelation? Do you think Kick lives the life it’s in her soul to live? Why is she so conflicted about her soul?
(Questions issued by publishers.)

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