Carousel Court

A Novel

Carousel Court

Joe McGinniss Jr., who is “poised to become one of our sharpest observers of life in America at the start of the twenty-first century” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), returns with one of the most engrossing, unnerving, and exhilarating novels in recent memory: a viscerally absorbing look at the seductive—and destructive—cutting edge of marriage.

Nick and Phoebe Maguire are a young couple who move cross-country to Southern California in search of a fresh start for themselves and their infant son following a trauma. But they arrive at the worst possible economic time, cemented into the dark heart of foreclosure alley and surrounded by neighbors swamped by debt who set fire to their belongings, flee in the dead of night, and eye one another with suspicion while keeping shotguns by their beds. Trapped, broke, and increasingly desperate, Nick and Phoebe each devise their own plan to claw their way back into the middle class and beyond. Hatched under one roof, their two separate, secret agendas will inevitably collide.

“A fearless novel about a family and a society on the brink…Harrowing but, against all odds, ultimately tender” (O, The Oprah Magazine), Carousel Court is an unforgettable vision of contemporary life. It has the ambition of our most serious literary work and the soul of a thriller, managing to be simultaneously sexy, scary, and powerfully moving. Most of all, it offers an unflinching portrait of modern marriage in a nation scarred by vanished jobs, psychotropic cure-alls, infidelity via iPhone, and ruthless choices. “Fast…Foreboding…Joe McGinniss spins an edgy tale, often laced with a reporter’s eye for the little details that make characters pop” (The Washington Post). He leaves you simultaneously gutted and grateful—and curious what your partner is up to on that electronic device across the room.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476791296 | 
  • July 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Carousel Court includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In the wake of a terrible accident, Nick and Phoebe Maguire move from Boston to Carousel Court—a brand-new subdivision in Southern California—with big plans: upgrade and flip their house, move to the beach, and live the upper-middle-class lifestyle they’ve always wanted. But when the housing bubble bursts, so do their dreams of a nice car, organic grocery stores, and private school for their son, Jackson. Driven to extreme measures by debt and desperation, Nick and Phoebe reach the brink of self-destruction before they can fight their way back to happiness.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Nick and Phoebe are deeply flawed characters who intentionally hurt each other—and themselves—throughout the course of the novel. Did you see them as relatable or sympathetic in any way? Are they victims or perpetrators? Why or why not?

2. The physical setting in Carousel Court is alternately a breezy, sunny California where “everything pops” (72) and a barren, smoldering landscape of “moaning win see more

About the Author

Joe McGinniss Jr.
(c) Beowulf Sheehan

Joe McGinniss Jr.

Joe McGinniss Jr. is the author of Carousel Court and The Delivery Man. He lives in Washington, DC, with his family.